I blog about my daughter with autism, about her life, about her art, about funny stuff she does, about good times and bad.
I thought I might start sharing some of my entries here, as an effort to raise autism awareness. Often diaries on this site about autism seem to center around vaccine issues, which is a shame, if you ask me.
This latest entry is on the occasion of my daughter turning ten years old.
Visit her website to read more about Ellie, autism, or to see some of her artwork.
First, there is some pain and yelling, then there are those baby cries of a tone that burrow into your heart, never loosening their grip as long as you live.
There are the first moments alone, when husband and first-born have gone home, and you luxuriate in the mink-like hair, thick, the color of mahogany. You don't feel the panic that you suffered with the first baby. You know what you're doing now, you can just relax and enjoy her baby smell and squirmy form. When they give her all the shots and pokes and sticks of a newborn, she doesn't cry, or even blink. Tough kid, you think fondly.
Then comes baby food, and diapers, and normal baby things. You're tired a lot. You write down all the milestones, and carefully paste the pictures in the baby book. The space for "first word" is blank. You wait to fill it in.
Her first steps are in a perfect circle, right there on the bathroom rug while you are brushing your teeth. "She's a genius!" you say. What child walks in a circle for her very first independent steps? Clearly gifted. Still waiting on that first word, but her big brother didn't talk until he was almost eighteen months old. Not to worry. But, she's been walking the perimeter of the living room rug since she learned to walk, around and around. On the other hand, she's cuddly and happy and funny. She sucks her two middle fingers, eats well and finally is sleeping well.
Your aunt, the teacher, keeps telling you that maybe you should take her to see someone. Sure, sure, but first you'll wait and see. You mention the word "autism" to your husband. He doesn't react well. No, you're right, you say, just a nervous mother over-reacting. But secretly you Google "autism". You find as many things to make you think "yes" as "no".
Then one day, she's playing along-side her little playmates. There's one little girl who is exactly the same age. You are watching your girl and the other little girl. One is pushing a dolly in a doll stroller. "Mommy! Look! Look!" she's calling to her mother. She's asking for a snack, she's seeking out her mother's help. You watch your girl, who has been holding on to the same toy screwdriver for four days. She is sitting in the corner, silent, by herself. When she gets up, it is to walk the perimeter of the carpet. When she's hungry, she takes someone's leftover snack from the table. She doesn't ask you for help.
You have a little trouble breathing as you are overcome with certainty. Your beautiful little girl has autism. There's not a doubt in your mind. When you take her to the doctor for the diagnosis, it's a formality as far as you are concerned. You already know that she has autism, but still you must go through the process.
Then begins the long march. I won't even detail it here, because I've already written of the many steps up the rocky path of discovery. The mis-steps, the false leads, the falls and the times where you are in dark, dark woods with no light coming in through the trees. The times when you think no matter what happens it will be all right, and the times when you think nothing will ever be right, that everything is ruined. Mostly, you concentrate on the day ahead.
Then, one day, your girl turns ten. She starts talking more, and she's doing well at school. She hasn't scratched anyone in a really long time. You take a deep, deep breath and wonder if maybe you see some light up ahead.
But then, you notice THE SIGNS. She's not a baby anymore, and soon she'll be a young woman. You start to choke on panic again. You notice that like Sisyphus, the hill is rising before you once more and there's a big frickin' rock in front of you.
But, right now she's swinging in her hammock, as happy as can be, with her new birthday toys, waiting patiently to go out for her birthday dinner at her favorite restaurant. The sun is shining on that mahogany hair and there's a tiny grin on her face.
So you find the strength to begin pushing that rock up the hill.