Thank you to Lisa Crognale of Lightning Strikes for this guest post.
Just like every other North American family, our family has been capitalizing on these first few warm spring days. After being cooped-up inside for an entire winter, these days are so delicious. So, it was the first time we have seen our daughter Mia, outside for quite awhile. She was not impressed. She stood inside peering out at us through the sliding glass door. Every minute or so she would stick a foot out, let it touch the deck, then jump back in while screaming. It was as if she wanted to experience it, but her fear was holding her back.
She did this stick a foot out and run back in thing for about five minutes. My son Nick and I, already playing outside, steadily coaxed her out by cheering for her and saying, “Come on out you will be fine!”. Finally, she made it completely out onto the deck. She looked down at us smiling and laughing. Guess she realized she would not vaporize or melt in the mid-day sun.
Then she really hit her stride. She came down the steps and into the backyard! As she entered the backyard, I really started to watch her to see what she would do. Last year at this time, we were just starting to realize that Mia might have autism. She would pace back and forth over the stones in the landscaping, or sit and play in the dirt instead of engage with her siblings. She was terrified of the swing, and could only tolerate the slide. I remember watching her from inside the house, picking apart each aspect of her behavior. I tried to rationalize the autism away by telling myself she is a girl, not a rough and tumble boy like I was used to. There was no escape from her impending autism diagnosis. I tried to reject it, but very slowly had to accept it instead.
And here we are almost a year later. Mia is making progress every day. She is becoming far less anxious and much more exploratory. She is just beginning to use her language more, and sometimes puts two and for the first time yesterday THREE words together! It happened while outside of all places. I was pulling her in her wagon when I heard it. At first it was only a whisper. I had to stop and really listen to make sure I heard it. Then she said it a bit louder, “go faster Mommy.” Without realizing it, I had come to a complete stop while staring at her. She glanced back at me and said it again louder, “go faster Mommy!” So boy let me tell you I went fast. We went in circles through our backyard speeding up and slowing down. I had such fun with her. I look forward to celebrating more of her successes alongside her. That’s the thing about autism. It teaches you to celebrate and appreciate every little accomplishment. To take nothing for granted, an important lesson for all parents everywhere.
Lisa Crognale is a former school counselor turned full- time mom of three. Two of her children have autism, one of whom also battled brain cancer. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Lightning Strikes.
Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one's best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.