As my son approaches his 18th birthday, I am fortunate to be able to share countless examples of kindness and compassion that overshadow the tremendous challenges we have faced. Lincoln was 2 ½ years old when he was diagnosed. The joys of finally becoming a mom at the age of 36 were suddenly overcome with the sadness and fear of what life would be like for my sweet little boy.
Fortunately, my older and much wiser sister, wrote me a letter of encouragement. She asked that I focus on celebrating the small miracles my son experienced each day and cautioned me against being discouraged. She asked me to be strong and that Lincoln needed me to be his advocate. I have tried to live by her advice and have many to thank for helping us along this journey.
Here are a few of the more memorable people or events that have brought sunshine to this journey including:
The amazing gift of speech. I am so grateful that my son can communicate. Every parent hopes to hear their child say “I love you.” The truly amazing staff who has surrounded Lincoln since he began an early intervention pre-school. These teachers, therapists and administration have become our extended family. Their patience, commitment, compassion and creativity have transcended their roles as educators.
For example, my son recently had a very difficult day prior to me leaving home for a business trip. I texted his teacher to check in as he weighted heavily on my thoughts that particular day. His teacher responded by sending a text and picture of Lincoln smiling and telling me he was having a good day. He then typed “breathe.” This special touch meant such a great deal to me.
The grocery store clerks who have responded to Lincoln’s endless questions about the color of their house, name, the type of mailbox they have, whether or not they have a pool. Their smiles and kind remarks help make a very stressful experience bearable.
The Buddy Baseball and Basketball gang, it is so heartwarming to see the teenage young men and women dedicating their Sunday afternoon to children with special needs. Just getting Lincoln to accept wearing a hat and glove was a milestone!
To my neighbors who greet us as we take our walks and are willing to stop and say hello despite the sometimes awkward and repetitive conversations that ensue.
A message to those of you who do not know what to do when you encounter a situation involving a child with Autism: treat he/she as you would want your child treated; smile, make eye contact, be patient and most of all, embrace their unique qualities.