|Declyn & Shay, my youngest sons.|
My Boys And Their Beautiful Autism
(written in 2011)Having four boys is a wonderfully large amount of work and worry. It is the greatest way to force yourself into a world of self-motivation, observation, and priority changing. I love the challenges and changes that have become a part of my life as a result and especially appreciate the guidance I have been given along the way. Sharing the stories, learnings, and laughter is another great way to solidify my own ideas and maybe even help other moms who might feel a little stuck. So for this website, I would love remember the beginning of my journey with my two youngest sons.
Shay is my second youngest. From the moment he came into the world we knew there was something different about him. The usual "It's a boy!" was replaced with my mom's unsure "It's a ...baby!" (My mom delivered three of my four sons.) He was not deformed, my mom's uncertainty did not come from any actual physical confusion on the baby's part but my mom's extremely reliable intuition. She felt the difference in my newest son and prepared me from the start. And we lovlingly laughed from the start!
He turned out to be the perfect baby. Where my older two were rambunctious and stubborn, insisting always that mommy do everything, never accepting help from other adults, Shay was quiet and happy to accept love and snuggles from the nearest loving arms. As he grew he remained comfortable with all of the adults in his life. He would even spend the night with my sister and never miss me. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me and my relationship with him. How was it that he could just accept aunt or grandma and not need me? My other boys would never have accepted anyone else in so many of the situations where Shay seemed content. My heart worried for months before I voiced my concern. Of course, by then the concerns had piled up. Shay was often dealing with asthma , played alone for long periods of time with small dinosaurs and train parts (esp. Thomas the Train), loved the sensory delight of tapping sticky things on the end of his fingers, and by the age of four was still not talking.
I did the usual, took him to doctors. They said to wait and see, some kids are late bloomers. In the meantime my mom (who had adopted four autistic boys and guided all but one into independence) decided to use this opportunity to learn sign language. What an amazing family I have! Both my mom and sister took a course while I got over my made up fear that Shay and I needed to work on our relationship, by working on our relationship. I realized that with him not needing me the way his brothers had I actually started pulling away, feeling rejected. I quickly stopped that.
By the time he was four we were signing words with our hands in front of our mouths, making language fun and were soon listening to Shay voice his wants. I don't think it took more than a month. Not to mention I had learned the important lesson of allowing Shay to be different than his brothers in the way he loved me and that gave us a different but equally special bond. As I write this he is eleven years old and at school with other eleven-year-olds. His daydreaming drives his teachers crazy and there have been times I could have had him labeled as ADD or Autistic if I thought it would benefit him, he toe-walks that line and, admittedly, I have wondered off and on about the benefits of a label for him. Over and over I have decided against it. My mom does neurofeedback with him when he is struggling to focus and that always gives him the reminder that there is a tool out there for when he feels overwhelmed. He has had a girlfriend for three years and they have made plans for their future that he is quite sure he can make happen. When it comes to his dream of being a stay at home dad with his own restaurant Shay never loses focus.
In so many ways Shay's differences have enriched my life and given me tools for parenting my other children. But nothing compares with what it has done for my youngest son , Declyn.
Declyn was born in 2000 and for some reason was vaccinated strait out of the womb. I didn't remember this happening with any of my other children but it didn't really concern me since I am one of those fools who tends to figure that the professionals know what they are doing. My mom is not. She paid close attention and although I could hardly miss the fact that my newest baby never slept, cried any time I put him down and would go to no other grown up comfortably, I wasn't the first to notice his complete lack of eye contact . My mom pointed it out when Declyn was only about five months old. No matter what position we held him in he would focus somewhere just beyond our smiling eyes. So we found more positions and more exciting ways to grab his attention and encourage him into forgetting that he was uncomfortable with eye contact. Before long he was more than happy to look into our eyes and enjoy the fun reactions this got him! Our arms were exhausted and our eyes and cheeks tired from all the smiling but we ended up with stronger arms, a child who gained the skill and benefits of eye contact and an addiction to smiling. Not to shabby!
Declyn's lack of eye contact was not the only sign that he may have gone down the autism path, he also had (and still has) a tendency towards vomiting (he can't eat outside or look at ugly things while around food), it was years before he became remotely comfortable in social situations and he is still quite uncomfortable meeting new people. But at nine years old he is in fourth grade, brings home great report cards and is Mr. Popularity. Every morning he begs to stay home, even cries sometimes or on rare occasions will throw up, so the transition from home to social situations is still big for him but he handles it and sometimes my heart can't take asking it of him so I let him stay home. Just sometimes.
My two youngest sons are still colored with autism. It is a beautiful part of their personalities and a gift that has been a catalyst for learning and laughing in our family.
A gift that we are going to continue to unwrap together.
UPDATE: Wow, that was fun to read again! And how neat to see the "them" they still are, now at ages nineteen and seventeen, while also knowing how far they've come! How well they've chosen to embrace and harness and understand and value their differences and challenges. Man, I am one lucky, impressed, grateful, happy mom! Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane. ~Tsara