It Began With A Diagnosis…
My special needs son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism after a long hard battle of trying to find out what was “wrong” with him. He was 6 when that diagnosis came and I threw myself into research from every possible direction I could go in. I worked with educational and medical professionals, nutritionists, herbal mentors and so many others. There were speech therapists, occupational therapists, and a slew of resources that came through the school system.
He was incredibly self-injurious to the point that he would often bash his head into walls (the harder the better it seemed). He would bite chunks of flesh from the backs of his hands and his knees, because they were the easiest to reach. After awhile, I learned how to practice safe crisis management skills, along with my husband who also worked in a home for boys with special needs.
We often had to take him to the floor several times a day in order to keep him safe.
Slowly Moving On…
A few years later, the self-injurious behaviors slowed and then stopped. I am thankful for all the therapy he received and, with the help of the best psychologist in the whole world, I know that’s what saved him from what could have been a much worse outcome.
Many professionals often advised that we start looking for an institution that could take him and his “special needs”. But that was never an option.
Along with the diagnosis of high functioning autism, he was also diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and CAPD (central auditory processing disorder). OCD is well known, but the latter is a disorder that, for my son, included an inability to hear what was said to him for several seconds or more. You had to literally send a barrage of instructions and then wait.
He would eventually “get it”.
The Boy Becomes A Man…
Now that he is in his early twenties, I have to say, if anyone had described the man I see before me, I would have called them a liar. I didn’t know it was possible to go from “where we were” to “where we are” and it has been a long hard climb to get here!
As a young man, he has no self-injurious behavior and the only way you can really tell that he has a handicap is through his social interaction, which he struggles with daily. For instance, he often interrupts conversations without realizing that someone else is talking. To him, he needs to get the idea in his head out before he loses it.
But that’s something he’s working on too.
The Past Can Be Haunting…
He also has literally no concept of anything other than “friend”. While I am thankful for that sensitivity, it can get him hurt so the overprotective mother in me often rears her crazy head 🙂 I have seen him approach young men he’s gone to school with, and he acts as though he’s seeing his long lost best friend. They, on the other hand, look at him like a leper. That hurts my heart to absolutely no end.
He also replays things from his high school days as if they happened only weeks ago. He still misses his first “real” girlfriend. Some days he blames himself for losing her. Other days he blames her. Neither direction seems to hurt him any less.
He lost his biological father when he was thirteen years old and that, too, replays as if it were only days or weeks ago. Sometimes the hurt in his eyes weighs so heavy on my heart I can barely stand it! But, in either situation, we can usually turn the tide with a change of subject matter.
Letting Go, But Holding On…
But there has also been a great deal of my having to learn to let go. As his Mom, I want to protect him from anything and everything that might hurt him. On the other hand, I’m also learning to let go and let him be a man where he can. He recently got his permit, which was an accomplishment that did his heart so good, I couldn’t help but to cry. Whether or not he will ever get a driver’s license, I cannot say. It’s likely to not ever happen, but getting that permit – something I very nearly stopped him from even attempting – was a step forward for him that couldn’t be replaced by anything else.
He’s also, as I write this, traveling with a family friend. They are several states away and not due back for a week. It’s his third trip. I almost didn’t let him go on the first one. I was scared of what might happen to him, being so far away from me.
But I had to learn to let go.
Seeing Him As The Man He Is…
However, he is a man. Whatever his shortcomings, I cannot keep him from doing the things that “normal” people do. If he is able to do it, then I have to let him do it.
And he is ecstatic. Could NOT be happier.
I get lots of phone calls and lots of pictures and I hear the excitement in his voice.
And I pray for God’s hand of protection to be over him at all times.
Raising a special needs child is hard. I can’t say that in my experience, I’ve ever had a harder undertaking. However, now that he is grown, it might be harder still for me. Letting go is probably the hardest thing a Mother has to do in her life. That is doubled, tripled, or even more, when that child has struggled his whole life just trying to live and be normal.
My Mom always said, “When a child is small, they step on your toes, and when they are old, they step on your heart”.
Never a truer word spoken!
It’s hard, but you can do it! Talk to professionals you have worked with and trust. Do the research on whatever it is they need to undertake. And most of all, trust your gut.