Fifteen years ago, this man was a little boy who could not communicate his most basic thoughts. He was so non-responsive that at one point we thought he might have a hearing loss. For a while I actually hoped that was the cause. At least I can understand hearing and hearing loss. The alternative was the great unknown called autism.
His hearing was fine. Better than fine. Just shy of his 3rd birthday, he was evaluated by a team of specialists at a major Children's Hospital. The decision was unanimous and undeniable. Autism.
His future was a giant unknown. Last month he asked me if the specialists gave us any information about how far he would progress or what the future held. No. Nothing. The range of developmental issues are so vast that the experts can give no indication of how far he might progress. We didn't know if he would ever be able to function independently.
The list of things he couldn't do that he should be able to do was lengthy. It still makes me cry when I think about that time. The fear for his future was overwhelming. If he never became independent, who would take care of him when I'm gone? This fear drove me to action. He would become as independent as possible.
My son had a major advantage over most kids in his situation. Many people say that advantage was having me as his mother but that is wrong. His real advantage stemmed from his grandparents, my parents. They both spent their careers educating special needs children. They both understood the challenges he would face and provided guidance. Without them, we would have floundered. Without them, we would not have known what questions to ask or where to look for answers. Without them, we would have listened to the naysayers and not have pushed as hard.
People in our small town marvel at his progress. Some have called it a miracle. We moved here when he was in 2nd grade and couldn't read or count. Now he is a senior in high school. He plays football, wrestles and runs track. He completed five college classes during his junior yer and is taking twice that number this year. We once wondered if he would need to take the alternative assessments to graduate from high school. Now, he has been accepted to two universities and even got directly admitted into the College of Business.
This may look like a miracle. It may seem like it is just because I pushed him so hard. It may seem like he must be especially gifted to have achieved this level of success. It isn't
Some have commented that he achieved all this because of his unique drive. That is true. What most don't realize is that he was not born with that drive, None of us are. He developed that internal drive to succeed as he grew. His drive developed because he was challenged and because we believed he could overcome his challenges.
Others can learn from him. I finally convinced him to share his story in the hopes that others will also achieve higher levels of independence. I no longer worry about what will happen when I am gone. That is the gift that I wish to share with other parents.
Oh....notice in the top picture that he is sitting behind the wheel of the car. Yes. He did get his driver's license which is something else that was never a certainty. It took more practice than most but he did it. And he is a good driver.
Amazon.com: Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store