Every new parent has an idealistic view of what their child will one day become: a doctor, a lawyer, a star athlete.  We picture our children growing up and having careers, getting married, and having children of their own. The day that I sat in the pediatric specialist’s office with my son (then 2 ½) and heard the word Autism, all of those goals and dreams for my child flooded my mind.

What does this mean? Will he ever be “normal?” What will he be like as a teenager and as an adult? Will he get married? Have children? I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

I recently heard one parent of a child with Autism describe the grieving period that she experienced. While no actual death has taken place, the parents still mourn the loss of their hopes and dreams, the loss of “what could have been".  My initial experience was similar to that of this mother. I was at a loss, wondering how this could be, and why him? Why ME? Thankfully, my pity party did not last long, and I snapped out of it. Now, I was a mom on a mission! I grabbed every book, article, journal, research study, ANYTHING that had to do with Autism. If there was an inkling of hope out there that could help my son function to the very best of his ability, I was going to find it.

My son was enrolled in ECI (early childhood intervention), then early Head Start, then Head Start, then PPCD, then an Autism unit,  not to mention occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, equine therapy, B12 shots, a CFGF (caseine-free gluten-free) diet, you name it, I have probably tried it. While this sounds intense, we saw amazing results! Hunter went from being an almost completely non-verbal 3-year-old to who he is today, a vibrant, smart, loving, happy 10-year-old who never STOPS talking!

Seeing the progress that my son has made in the 8 years since his diagnosis truly changed my life in more ways than one. Today, I am a huge advocate for early intervention. Working with children and families with Autism is my passion, and I have now made it my career. I have discovered that sitting in an ARD meeting with a parent who is just learning that their child has some type of disability will yank on my heartstrings every single time. I always hope that I can bring a special understanding to every meeting, as I am very familiar with the seat on the other side of the table.

Today, my outlook on Autism is very different than it was when I sat in that doctor’s office with my toddler, thinking about what he would never be able to do. Today, I know that the possibilities for my son are only bound by his imagination. I have been blessed with one amazing kid, and rather than asking “why me?” today I can say without hesitation “lucky me!”

Photo Courtesy of Christy K.