N is for NEVER.
When you get a diagnosis of autism for your little kid, it is hard to not be negative about it, to not feel on some level like your life is over. It is over, really, ha! I mean I'm kidding but it is - the life that you thought you were going to have is over, and that sucks, but really, who knows what kind of life they are going to have, especially when that life involves other people, and especially a child? You can't pick your baby, my mom always used to tell me, and it turns out it's true. Mike and I have had to do a lot of soul searching, together and separately, although thank God it has mostly been together, and I think what we have found is that you have to be ready for the worst but hope for the best. You can never say never about your child with autism.
Anthony was diagnosed when he was 2.5 years old, although I guess the official diagnosis came right before he turned three. I will never forget it, when that school psychiatrist said to me, has anyone ever said the word autism to you before? Thank God, we were prepared for it, because I can't imagine NOT thinking that he had autism and someone saying it to me. It was jarring enough and I knew she was going to say it! Anyway, at the evaluation, they had all these tests that they do, does he look under a cup to see a ball that is there? Does he follow one step directions? I mean, he did nothing they told him to, he wouldn't even sit down. I remember thinking this is how it's always going to be, he will NEVER be able to follow directions, he will NEVER be able to answer a question or ask one.
And here we are, five years later, and he has made so much progress. I never thought he would be able to be toilet trained. I never thought he would sleep all night. I never thought he'd be able to make a request. But last night, before he went to bed, he went into the bathroom and (sorry for TMI) pooped on the potty and then slept for like ten hours, asked for a waffle this morning, and has done God knows what else just this morning at school! I don't like to get my hopes up anymore about anything having to do with any of these kids, but I really believe that the sky is the limit for Anthony. And more than that - I think if he does live with us forever, that will be okay too. If when we die he has to go and live in a home or something, I think he'll be okay. It's not easy for a person like me to think positively about a situation that is so emotional and seems so dire, but you have to. You have to strike the word never from your vocabulary, or I guess you could keep it in there but only for things like "never say never" and "never give up on your child with autism". I see stories every day in the news about kids who have finally busted through whatever communication problem they were having and truly, now the sky is the limit. I would hate for Anthony to have some kind of untapped potential and not be able to reach it because Mike or I thought he could never do it.
When I started this series, I NEVER thought it would take so long. Maybe I'll finish it in 2014 sometime? As my nephew Parker used to say, you NEVER know. :)