Sunday, April 1, 2018

Welcome to Our World

It is April folks, and around here that means lots of things, baseball season starts, spring is springing up (or at least we hope!), and, a special one for us, AUTISM awareness month. Ryan and I were reflecting just the other day on how different our life is than what we thought it would be. Let me transparent, we didn't know much about autism and we didn't have a plan for it affecting our world. We figured we did not fit the at-risk group and so we were good. We think about my pregnancy and we wonder when and how and why. We look back now at baby pictures of G and we don't see an autistic baby. Then toddlerhood, that's where the seed of suspicion took root in my mama heart. He had a crazy high pain tolerance. He was too easy. He didn't throw fits (those were the days!) He didn't talk and didn't care to. He had a couple sensory issues, nothing major but we wondered. I made our own referrals and sought our own answers and I refused to not smile for my boy. I cried silent tears, in my car, over laundry, always by myself. I educated myself without google or webmd but, instead with real people in waiting rooms and books that told real life stories and professionals and experts who saw the good, despite the hard. We decided to talk about it and not hide it or cover it. We were open and honest and "ok". Gradually, our circle became educated and aware and accepting. We laugh now that what we didn't expect became, in some way, how we would be defined. We are an Autistm Family. We wear our blue and we light up our world with G as our guide. Two of the people most affected by autism in our world are not Ryan and I, but our older boys. Parker and Carter are advocates of something that is so much bigger than them. They are G's biggest fans and the most accepting and awesome brothers that he could ever have. They really don't remember life before autism. They were just little when we spent hours waiting for G to finish therapy and they often have worked along side us and his therapists to help G reach his next milestone. They laugh with him and help him and they keep Ryan and I sane in the midst of the insane. They hurt when he hurts and they have to sacrifice and serve in ways that we could never have prepared them for. They are compassionate and kind and two of the most important people in Garrett's life and ours. So this blog, kicking off a month of autism awareness, is written mostly by them, from their point of view. 

Recently, the older boys and I read a book that was written by an nonverbal autistic child. It was an easy read and it consisted of  questions about autistic behaviors and common misconceptions, followed by answers from the mind of an individual with autism. It was funny and enlightening and we really enjoyed it. Because of it, I decided to give my older boys a list of questions about autism, how it affects their lives, how they see it, and have them answer from their perspective. Here are their answers...

1. How would you define autism?  Autism is a learning disability that makes G act and think differently than other people. I’ve never heard of a cure, but I have heard that they can diagnose people earlier now.

        I think autism is a thing where you aren’t crazy or anything but that you just have a different way of approaching things which sometimes looks different or weird.

2. What is the best part about having brother with autism?  The best part about having a brother with autism is that he can be super funny sometimes and I never forget a movie quote with him repeating them all the time.
     We get to have cool things in our house like egg chairs, swing chairs, and cool fidgets. Also, we get to do special things like fun club, stepping stones, and sometimes we get to go bowling.

3. What is the worst part about having a brother with autism?  Sometimes people think that I have autism like G. Other times people will tell me that my brother is weird and I kind of get offended.

     The worst part about having a brother with autism is that while he is funny it can sometimes get annoying and he is a little weird to some of my friends.

4. Why do you think G does some of the things that he does (ex. stims, repeats, dislikes babies, etc)?  I think G does stuff-stims because he gets a little overexcited and does that to calm him down. I think G dislikes babies because they are loud and messy, and he finds that very annoying.
     I think he does stuff-stims, repeats, dislikes babies, etc. because he is comfortable repeating movie lines. He does stuff- stims because it calms him down when he gets excited. He dislikes babies because they are loud, they cry, and they do things that G thinks are strange.

5. What do you think is the hardest part for G in living with autism?  The hardest thing for G to do with autism is learning. It is just hard for him.
     I think the hardest thing for G about living with autism is that sometimes he doesn’t understand what people are saying to him and that can make his life a little harder

6. Has Garrett's autism ever embarrassed you?  When I was younger I never used to think G was very weird. I mean he went to a special school and had a bunch of sensory things, but it never bothered me at all, or at least until other kids started meeting G. I swear in my second-grade year I explained autism 20 times and it started to become a conscious thing. But then G got older and all my friends think he is the funniest kid ever.
     G has never really embarrassed me because all my friends know that he is a little bit different.

7. How has autism made you or your family stronger? Autism has made are family appreciate one another better than other families I think.
     I think autism has made our family stronger because it has shown us that sometimes different is a good thing and that we should always treat people with kindness and respect.

8. What are your best and worst memories with G? One of my best memories with G is when he first started to go to school and he met all these other kids and he loved his teachers. One of my worst memories with G is when he had trouble in his second-grade year and we had issues with getting it switched. It all turned out ok, but it was kinda worrisome. 
     My best memory with G was when he asked Parker’s foot doctor the internet password was and said he had no idea. Then G said they needed to work on their internet connection. My worst memory with G was when one time he was clapping, jumping, and making his noise and I heard this kid say, I wonder whose brother he is, I bet he is weird.

9. What hopes, dreams, or fears do you have for G when he grows up? I hope that somebody will not be afraid to take G in as a person as well as an employee. I am afraid that somebody will not take G in because they think he will mess up.   
     I hope and dream that when G gets older he does whatever makes him happy and excels. I fear that some people will turn G away because they fear he will not do well at what they need done.

10. What do you love about G? I love G because he has given me many things in life that no one else has he is just a great person to be around.
     I love G because he makes us laugh all the time.

These boys....Life is full of worries and what ifs and tough times. There are no guarantees or plans or sure things. My boys, though so young and wild and far from perfect, remind me that there is hope and that some surprises are exactly what you never knew you always needed. All 3 of my boys are brave and smart and good. It is a challenge to live with autism, for the individual with the diagnosis and for their loved ones, but it is a worthy, strengthening challenge.  My hope for all my boys is that they always take life as an opportunity to grow and learn and love and, that they are always there for each other, laughing and loving all the while, lighting up the world around them.