Friday, April 5, 2013

He's not a Lost Boy

I read a lot about Autistic children being "lost" to their parents. I see those pictures of kids behind glass, read things which indicate an Autistic child is locked inside themselves, or read of parents, due to an inability to understand their child, thinking that their child is lost to Autism. I was once that parent.

I used to describe Autism as a kind of rabbit hole or looking glass that my child had traveled into. Perhaps that's still true, because I still don't understand a lot about how his mind works or how he feels. However, I know now that for years, I just wasn't listening. I like to think that a lot of parents are in the same boat as me. That they just don't understand. They don't speak Autism.

I've always said, both in real life and within this blog, that I would love to take a trip into Morgan's brain... just to feel what he feels and to see what he sees. But that's not possible. God, if it were, my passport is ready and waiting... but I'll be waiting a very long time. I'm not Autistic.

I used to watch Morgan playing in silence by himself and think, "Does he even know me? Know I'm here?" I'm sure he did, but he was engrossed with the wheels of his cars, with the sand, with his trains.

I once talked about fighting Autism to gain my child back. Silly me... my child was right there the whole time. Fighting Autism would be to fight my own child. I see that, now.

Autism, if you don't walk it, speak it, think it, can look like a strange place. It looks scary as hell, true, but only if you let it be that way. Yes, some of the things which sometimes come with Autism - seizures, in particular - are scarier than hell, I won't lie about that. As a parent, you want your child to be comfortable, to not have to overcome and persevere at a young age and to see them struggle or seize... or not eat for days on end.. or not talk.. not hit major milestones... is scary.

But the thing is, this is your child. Your child isn't lost. Your son or daughter hasn't gone away to a foreign land. He or she is right here, right now. Autism is just... different. Sometimes brutal because this isn't what you expected. No one comes into parenting expecting to be a special needs parent. You know what? On even your best days, all of this can suck, if you let it. I'm guilty of this feeling, too.

I'm just telling you... it doesn't have to be this way. This is my perspective at least.

One time, I actually let my guard slip and Morgan was lost. We were at the Nashville Zoo with a friend and his daughter. Bailey was an infant, Morgan was nonverbal with some echolalia. We had just been through a small portion of the zoo and Morgan was nearing a Mach 10 meltdown, so I decided to take him and his brother to the gift shop on the way to the play area. We looked around, greeted some zoo workers, then continued on to this huge play area. Morgan was itching to play... he was wanting to bolt, but I had a stroller and the thousand and one pieces of paraphernalia which go along with an infant and toddler so I could not follow him. My friend suggested we allow the "big kids" to go into the play area and we both stand by the only two points of exit/entry. After all, he couldn't slip past us, right?

We were dead wrong. I must have glanced down to grab a bottle at some point. I remember looking back up, trying to find my three year old in the crowd of kids, not being able to find his bright blue shirt. I began to panic, breaking out into a sweat, crying. I signaled my friend, who had been looking in tandem with me. I needed him to take Bailey so that I could go across the narrow walkway into the castle-like structure to look for Morgan. We just couldn't believe that the two of us, two "responsible" adults, had lost my child! 

As I began to walk in, a man came up to me.

"Are you looking for your son?" he asked.

"YES!" I nearly screamed at him, hysterically.

"He's over at the gift shop pay phones, saying 'Ma-ma.' I saw you over there earlier with him... I think he's trying to call you."

"Oh thank you, God," I thought, as I thanked him. I had tears pouring down my face, my heart was hammering in my ears and I sprinted to my son.

He was right where the man had said he would be, surrounded by the zoo workers we'd met earlier, holding the handle of a pay phone... he had been trying to call me. The workers told me he'd been there for maybe five minutes and had wanted a stuffed animal. When he'd realized that he was alone, he'd walked to the phone, picked it up, and started saying, "MA-MA!" The man had gone to the play area, remembering seeing us there earlier.

I got very lucky that day five years ago. My son had been lost... but we found each other.

1 comment :

  1. What a wonderful story, scary but wonderful! Sometimes we need those moments to really see the amazing growth our kids are capable of. PEACE