Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Life After Autism

Look at this boy... he's so happy. I love that smile, how he beams from ear to ear with love. You know there are some days when things seem normal around our house. (Ok, maybe not days, but more like moments). Like this morning. I was getting my camera ready to take pictures at a charity event and asked the kids if they wanted to take some pics. Normally JD would say NO WAY or give me a bunch of silly faces, but today he was all grins. Pictures like these remind me how invisible autism can be.

If you saw JD you'd think he was just a normal kid. He has no outward signs of a disability, and we're very fortunate that he has stopped a lot of the outward signs of autism, like stimming or flapping. But inside that brain is a very different world. It's creative and fast, it shoots from one idea to another. It hears every sound, senses every movement and feels every touch in ways us "neurotypical" people don't. How do I know? Just by watching JD interact with the world.

You might not see it, but JD's autism makes him different that the rest. Add in a little, sensory processing disorder (SPD), OCD and some ADHD and things can be a little crazy. But man do I love this kid. He has a heart full to the brim of gold. Sometimes that gold is hard to see... like when he's hitting his siblings or spitting at me when he's mad, but I know it's there. When he turns to me and says, "My mommy - I love you" it makes me melt.

I wasn't sure if there'd be life after autism, but there is. It's changed our lives so much, but it's made me a better person for sure. Tomorrow I'll be spending my day at a huge event - the Autistic & Handicapped Children of Central Florida's 39th Annual Holiday Party. More than 1200 kids with disabilities will be there. And while 3 years ago I would probably have never been involved, today I can say that I brought awareness to more than 100 people in my company through volunteering. 

I'm so proud to be a mom of a child on the spectrum. And while some days I really don't want the job (just being honest!) I wouldn't change it for the world. God gave me JD for a reason and whatever it is, I hope I'm living up to His expectations!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What a Surprise!

Two and a half years ago I started this blog as a new "autism mom" - scared, worried and unsure of the future. As a professional writer, blogging quickly became my outlet. It's been a place for me to share JD's development, my lessons learned and even some inspirational stories about our journey on the autism spectrum. I never imagined that anyone outside of our family would ever read my blog, but it's been a wonderful surprise to find out that people around the globe have stumbled upon it, one way or another, and have contacted me with questions, comments or just a quick "you're doing great mom!"

Just this week I received such a nice surprise from one of my readers. Her name is Deborah and she's one of my husband's friends and previous co-workers. A package arrived in the mail with a card and a beautiful pendant with five hanging charms: the first says Hope, the second is an autism ribbon, the third a little boy, the fourth says Faith and the last being a puzzle piece - the universal sign for autism awareness. How touched I was to receive this gift!  

Thank you Deborah so much for thinking of me! That was so thoughtful of you! I can't wait to wear it proudly - especially in April when it's Autism Awareness Month!

It's moments like these when I realize how far we've come. Not just JD, but our entire family. I'm no longer scared, just thankful that we've had so many wonderful people in our lives who have stood there and watched JD grow. Whether they're online, at work, or families and neighbors - we've been so fortunate to have helped spread the word about autism by living it first hand. 

This little guy is turning five in March. It's hard to believe it's almost been three years since his diagnosis. And although we struggle daily with different issues, I'm still amazed by the smallest things. Like today, watching JD drink from a bottle of water. Something so small took him about a year to learn how to do. No longer does water pour all down the front of his shirt... he's a bottled-water drinking pro! :)