Raising an autistic child is an adventure. No one understands autism. When your child is autistic, small achievements are like a normal child winning a spot on the Olympic Team.
Brenden loves to use Microsoft PowerPoint. A fascination with logos, something not unusual for autistic children, is taken a step further in PowerPoint. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Below is a sample of what Brenden does.
The joy experienced from your child doing something special breaks up the frustration and guilt you constantly endure. The guilt comes from wondering if you are providing everything your child needs. Medical and educational professionals estimate the cost of providing the type of care an autistic child needs run from 40 to 60 thousand dollars a year.
When you read books about children who were able to overcome this developmental nightmare, you read about nannies, special programs, special schools, and special tutors. YOU READ ABOUT MONEY.
Parents of autistic children have high divorce rates. An autistic child demands astonishing amounts of time and care. Parents have little time for themselves because of the constant attention the child needs. "Marriage Maintenance" gets put on the back burner. Baby sitting; forget about it, the high school kid next door does not have the skills or patience, unless he or she has an autistic sibling.
However, throughout this struggle, wonderful things happen. Your child runs up to you and says a word never said before. They accomplish a task for the first time. They behave correctly where they never have before.
Changes, simple small changes are incredibly difficult for autistic children. Brenden will not go to a shoe store and try on shoes. When Brenden needs new shoes, we trace each of his feet on paper, take the paper to the store, and find the right shoes. At home, we hold him down; it takes the two of us, and put the new shoes on. If you heard his screams or saw his behavior, you would think we were cutting off a foot.
We recently bought new shoes for Brenden. It takes cunning and tenacity to get Brenden to wear new shoes. The essential first step is hiding his old shoes. You cannot throw them away just in case the new ones don’t fit.
The highlight of Brenden’s day is going to the store with his mother. Michele changes clothes, gets her purse and car keys. Brenden knows she is about to leave and quickly gets dressed so he can go too. He knows that a cookie at Publix or fries at Burger King are just a ride away.
However, Brenden will not put on his new shoes. We say “no shoes, no bye bye” Michele closes the door. I lock it and Michele leaves without him. The look on Brenden’s face as he watches the car leave is so heartbreaking I am tempted to get his old shoes, just to see him smile, but you cannot give in.
Finally, Brenden slips into his new shoes. He does not put them all the way on; he just slides his feet into them. I call Michele on her cell phone, tell her that Brenden put on his shoes and she comes back to get him. By the time Michele gets to the store, Brenden takes off his shoes. Michele calls me and I come, get Brenden, and take him home. I remind Brenden “no shoes, no bye bye.”
We keep doing this and in a day or two, or three, Brenden is accustomed to his new shoes. The battle is over. The school told us about a middle school student who comes to school barefooted because his parents refused to go through this arduous routine.
Besides the tears, Brenden brings many smiles. He loves to play Rock a Bye Baby. He lies in my arms and I sing the song and when I get to “when the bow breaks the cradle will fall, and down will come baby.” I let him fall and catch him. I watch his bright blue eyes look at me as he waits for the exact moment. He always laughs. The smile on his face is incredible.
Until recently, I always initiated this game. Then one day Brenden runs to me and says, “Want Rock a Bye Baby,” and climbs into my lap. I don’t know about Brenden, but it was the best “Rock a Bye Baby” I ever had.
Brenden continues to improve especially in the area of unprompted oral speech.