Jun 10, 2011 David Tyler Uncategorized
He turned five last month.
It’s been five years since that strange, sleepless night where I nervously made a wrong turn on the way to the hospital. Five years since I learned how to hold a baby, change a diaper, fall asleep in a rocking chair. Five years of so many firsts.
And it’s now been more than four years since we saw the “60 Minutes” special on autism. The one that made us wonder why he didn’t look up when we called his name; why he didn’t clap; why he studied his little plastic toys so intently, so close to his face that we feared he would go cross eyed.
It’s nearly four years since we stood in the parking lot outside the specialist’s office, after being told that John is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum but a little too young to know for sure. Although the doctor didn’t know, we did. The world of autism is full of surprises, but the diagnosis, when it finally came, didn’t raise an eyebrow. About the same time, John uttered his first word. After tickling him so much I was afraid he’d lose his dinner, he pulled my hand to his belly and mimicked me – “ticko, ticko, ticko.”
In a few months, it will have been four years since his sister, Abby, was born. When we brought her home John studied her for a moment and hugged his mom. We had wondered what he would do, how he would react. He reacted like he does with so many things – a brief period of interest followed by a preoccupation with the toys and books and things he cares so much about.
About the same time, the therapists and service coordinators entered our lives, so many I can’t remember all their names, but all with a seemingly genuine adoration for our little blue-eyed boy. And it’s nearly three years since he started school – first at Bernice Wright and then at Jowonio – where he’s worked intensively with therapists and been exposed to other children, developing ever-so-slowly the social skills that are so hard to come by.
It’s also three years since the humming started – loud and anxious and usually accompanied by pacing nervously from room to room. Soon after, he shocked us by spelling his name with letter blocks, leaving the J-O-H-N neatly lined up on the floor and then moving on to other toys. A host of other surprises followed, each a tiny glimpse into his knowledge of shapes, numbers, letters, colors. Little bits of information picked up and locked in his brain, rarely escaping for the world to see.
It’s been two years since he fell in love with signs. Stop sign, No Parking sign, Odd-Even Parking sign, Street, Caution, Yield, Deaf Person in Area – any placard on a post. For two years our walks around the neighborhood have been a zig-zag from sign to sign, with a pause to touch each rusty post, look up at the sign, and move on to the next.
And it’s been two years since he waded into the ocean for the first time, holding my hand as the gentle but icy waves knocked him over again and again, uncontrollable giggles following each swell.
It’s been a year since he’s been able to form the overly loud, one-word commands or brief fragments of language that express his wants and needs. Shouts of “MILK!” or “ALL DONE!” have allowed us to replace our trial-and-error appeasement.
It’s been only a few days since he climbed atop his new bike, facing the wrong direction, before I had finished assembling it, repeating over and over “A new biy-ke! A new biy-ke!” And only a few days since he plucked the strings of his new guitar, playing it on the neck and sending it out of key within minutes.
Five years of firsts. Five years of diapers, tears, frustrations, embarrassing tantrums, and concerned talks with therapists and doctors. Five years of giggles, funny endearing looks, courageous and joyful trips down the waterslide, and shocking little glimpses into the thoughts trapped in his mind.
Five years of loving my little boy.
David Tyler is the publisher of Eagle Newspapers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.