He has severe autism. He is stuck in his own world, will never know the true feelings of love, fear, sadness or happiness, will probably never speak. Potty training, ha! He will never do "normal" things. "No cure…no cure…no cure." My first reaction, the true Puerto Rican girl from Brooklyn that I am, wanted to just reach out and slap that man. That horrible man, who just confirmed my worst fear and who told me the words I did not want to hear out loud but thought of every day. That my darling two year old angel, my precious twin boy would have autism for the rest of his life. What would I do? I certainly did not have the patience or compassion it would take.
The drive home my husband and I fought back the tears, chocked back the words neither of us had, just sat staring into the traffic of I35 taking in deep breaths as the smell of the unknown hung in the dead air. It was so silent that it was actually deafening. I sat straining to hear anything else run through my brain. How could I begin to explain to my mother that her grandson would be less than perfect? To his older brother that he would never play basketball or football with him? To his twin sister, her built in playmate would never be interested in building blocks, coloring in books or even be able to say her name? How could God have done this to my perfect little family? Why did he choose me?
For the next 2 weeks there was nothing I could do but lots of crying and lose myself in self pity and despair. Then in the middle of the night I heard the soft words of "Mama, I can do it" in my ear. As I turned over and opened my eyes to see no-one there, I realized that this was just a nightmare because I would never hear any words coming from Jackson. And that is when it hit me. It hit hard like a ton of bricks that had fallen from the heavens above. I realized that the key phrase to his statement was "I can". Not you, us, or we, but I.
All this time I was worried about my losses. I would never hear his voice. I would never feel his love. I would never see him graduate. I would never see him get married. I would never have a grandchild from him, and I would always have to provide him with shelter, food, and clothing. And of course, what my family and friends would think of me having a "special needs kid." Me. Me. Me. How selfish I have been! That’s when I stopped and thought about Jackson. And that’s the "moment" things changed for him.
Jackson will not remember this moment as we all remember ours, but I am grateful for that nightmare that certainly turned into a dream. Once I was able to take myself out of the equation, things started to click into place. That’s when it became Jackson happens to have autism instead of autism has Jackson.
The past 8 years have slowly passed and as a family we have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. The good, that I do have the patience and compassion and this journey has brought us closer together, the bad, that people can be hurtful and ignorant and of course the ugly, that at times I find myself slipping back into self pity. But when those times come I stop to think of the triumphs Jackson has made. The day he was potty trained, the day he sat for a haircut without screaming, the day he learned to roller skate, rock climb, ride his bike, sleep over a friends, write his name, do math, read a book, the day he said "mama," the day he said "I love you" and knew he meant it. The day he asked for "Daddy?" when dad was late from work. These days are miracles and I am lucky enough to be there to witness them but even luckier to have such a sweet boy, who is healthy, who laughs and feels, and is truly happy.
Wherever this journey takes him, he will always have a loving, supportive family that will always be by his side to cheer his wins, brush off his losses and will certainly be present at all of his moments.