I asked my twin sons what they wanted for their upcoming birthdays. Isaac didn’t respond. He’s functionally nonverbal and wasn’t interested in using his communication device to answer.
Noah thought for a moment and said, “I don’t need a new atlas. How about shirts? Then we can laugh when we open them.”
Today family will squeeze into our home to eat lunch and celebrate another birthday milestone. Isaac might open one present before escaping to play “Wheel of Fortune” on the computer. Some years he resurfaces when it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday,” even though he can’t coordinate his body to blow out the candles. Noah loves the attention and company. Once he’s focused, he opens each present quickly. He barely looks to see what’s inside.
Invariably someone will say, “Can you believe they’re seven years old?”
My husband and I will answer in unison, “Has it only been seven years?” Then we’ll laugh and point to the bags under our eyes. It’s been a long road since they were diagnosed with autism five years ago.
Isaac’s behavior was so challenging I was not sure he could remain in our home. He didn’t seem to understand language. He seldom slept. Noah said a few words, but his language was not functional. Most people frightened him, and he cried for hours when his routine was disrupted. When I took them to a park, they ran in opposite directions– and never to the play equipment.
They’ve both come so far. So have I.
Before my boys were born, I never dreamed I could raise a special needs child or two. It was a demanding job that always felt too big for me. Kids with autism need to be taught everything. They don’t generally pick up cues from the environment the way others do.
Now I realize my boys have taught me much more than I’ve taught them. Not all of the lessons have been easy. I’ve learned about acceptance, patience, humility, and unconditional love.
I often wonder what kind of person I may have become had autism not entered my life. I believe I’d be more rested. But would I be shallow or judgmental? Would my new house or car be my biggest concern? Would I be
oblivious to life’s simple joys?
Isaac and Noah are my gifts. They have made me a better person and mother.
Today I will stop to reflect upon their growth during the last year, and I’ll celebrate how richly I’ve been blessed. Then I’ll serve up those thoughts with a big piece of birthday cake.