For the first time ever this is Dad, Michael, writing the blog. Truth be told I promised to write a post for Rachel a while ago and it has just taken me some time to get the chance to write a piece. As most everyone does at the moment I have more time at home.
I feel it is needed to go back a bit and let you get to know me better and also give you my initial thoughts from Mr. L’s diagnosis.
I am, and my wife can attest to this, a big kid. I love sports, comic books, Disney, and having fun. Growing up sports were a big part of my life. My father played sports, myself and all my siblings competed in sports at one time or another. I even earned a master’s degree in sports administration Because of this I thought, I dare say expected, that sports would be a big part of my children’s lives.
I always knew I wanted to have children and was beyond excited every time I found out we were having a kiddo. I felt that, in order to be the type of father I wanted to be, I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to help my children succeed.
This brings us to when Mr. L received his diagnosis. I know that there was a mixed bag of emotions, and to be honest, with all the build up and pursuit of finding out why he was behaving the way he was, the sense of relief. Finally we knew why! The next thing I remember thinking is this changes everything and nothing all at the same time.
I know that statement may come off oxymoronic, but it really isn’t. I still was going to do whatever it took to help my child succeed; it is that what I would be doing to make that happen completely changed. I learned about ABA therapy, stimming, and that connecting with my son would be very different from what I was expecting it to be.
When Rachel was pregnant with Mr. L I started buying football cards for him because those had been a big part of my childhood. I learned, very quickly, that if I was going to be let into his little world that it would be on his terms to start. I learned about his likes and his dislikes. He loved and still loves trains and Legos. Growing up I didn’t care for Legos and the town I lived in had 70 something trains go by in a day removing the novelty of trains for me quickly. Instead of resisting; I embraced. As I embraced he in turn embraced, slowly, things Daddy was interested in.
As off right now those football cards are packed away in a closet and maybe one day he or his siblings will want them, and if not that is okay too. He has chosen to embrace superheroes, Disney, and others of my likes instead.
Now that you have indulged me for a bit let me refer back to the title of this post. When Mr. L was first diagnosed and still to this day autism can feel like AUTISM, an all consuming beast that dictates a great deal of our lives. Thankfully this is not always the case and there are indeed moments when autism disappears.
The first time I remember having the conscious thought that right now autism has vanished and in that moment he was no different than any other child was while walking between rides at the Magic Kingdom. Rachel and Mr. C were somewhere else in the park because Mr. C was too short to ride Big Thunder Mountain. I had Mr. L on my shoulders walking to find them and it hit me like a ton of bricks that in that moment it was just him and I having a father son moment that was not in anyway shape or form influenced by his diagnosis. He was a four year old boy with his dad loving life at the most magical place on Earth.
Unfortunately I cannot afford to live at Walt Disney World but I have found these moments in other places as well. Last summer at Six Flags Mr. L insisted on riding the Joker roller coaster as any self-respecting 7 year old fan of the Clown Prince of Crime would, visiting zoos and watching him stare with wonder at his favorite creatures, or even laying on the couch watching cartoons with Dad. I told you I was a big kid.
I am thankful that as he learns and progresses that these moments become more frequent. I hope with all my heart that my fellow autism and special needs parents can find these moments with their children. Heaven knows that raising a special needs child is not easy, but it is a wonderful awe-inspiring experience. I, for one, can’t wait to see what other adventures Mr. L has in store for me.
What about you? Have you had moments where there is no diagnosis? What are some of your favorite memories with your child?