The fact is, Autism is a burden. I can't pretend that it's not. But as burdensome as it is, it's presented us with many good things, and especially with what a very good friend refers to as "Sunshine Moments".
We are relatively young on our journey down this path. In the past 2+ years our eyes have been opened to what so many parents of autistic children have struggled with for years. It's allowed us to forge deep friendships and instantly bond with other parents that share our experiences. It's also allowed us to not take for granted those little successes that often go overlooked with typically developing children. These are the "Sunshine Moments" our good friend, and fellow parent of an autistic son, so eloquently told us about. It’s where all of a sudden something simple that you, or your child's therapists, have struggled to teach your child for months, finally clicked. They get it.
She learned the phrase from another parent.
Whoever thought of it coined it perfectly.
Our son Mason, now age 4, was diagnosed with PDD-with autistic tendencies (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) at 19 months of age.
Prior to that dark day, my wife, like Detective Joe Friday, pieced together the clues over the course of many months.
No speech. Barely even a babble or coo. Check.
Poor eye contact. Check.
Interest in spinning objects and eye tracking. Check.
Lack of gross motor skills. Check.
Stimming (repetitive behaviors). Check.
My wife, having a keen mother's intuition, knew it was Autism before we saw a single doctor.
If my wife is anything, she's relentless in seeking information. She can't make an apple pie without first searching thru 1000 recipes to find one that meets her satisfaction. It's annoying, but her methodology works. She makes a damn good apple pie. Her knack for seeking and understanding information lends to her job as a business analyst very well. As a mother, in the case of autism, she was dead on correct.
I remember her calling me on the phone at work. "Look! (as I envisioned her shaking me violently) He doesn't do this, or this, or this, or this!". She narrated to me her checklist of milestones that Mason should've hit long ago. "I think he's autistic" she said.
I didn't get it.
I thought she was overreacting.
My son wasn't autistic. He couldn't possibly be. ..... .. .. could he?
There were more clues, but we only see them now thru that perfect 20/20 hindsight. In fact now, knowing what I know today, I can look back to the day he was born, literally seconds old, and know that he was autistic as he was handed to my wife and I in the delivery room.
He was immediately 'different' than his older sister Claire-Marie a bright eyed Daddy's girl. And I'm told, different than my stepson Kyler, a genius in his own right.
So it was in November 2004, after our officially unofficial diagnosis of PDD with Autistic Tendencies, which was later changed to an official diagnosis of Autism, that we started our journey into the foggy unknown