The children filed in, angels and shepherds, and lined up in front of the manger scene and began to sing Silent Night with sweet hand motions. Parents shot video and took pictures – proud of their little ones.
I sat there, too, eyes bright with tears. My kids weren’t up there. One was on my lap, too young for the chorus. The other was at my side quietly singing parts of the song and doing a few of the hand motions. I was bursting with pride. It felt like a Christmas miracle.
A year ago, I would not have thought this to be possible. My son, now three, was just diagnosed with autism. Autism and a bunch of other “disorders” that basically say he’s not following a typical path of development and open doors for him to qualify for therapy.
From the time he was born – two months early – we knew he was just going to do things on his own time. When he seemed to be taking longer than normal to meet certain milestones, we thought he needed a boost to help him catch up since he was a preemie. We were told he’d catch up by the time he turned two. He didn’t.
And so we sought answers. I kept hearing the “A-word,” but I just couldn’t entertain the thought. But when he was officially diagnosed in November 2013, we were forced to hold our aspirations for him a bit more loosely. No one could tell us what the future was going to hold for him: would he get better? Worse? We didn’t know and I’ll just speak for myself here: I was terrified.
We entered into 24 hours of therapy for him each week. On top of the therapy there were things we were supposed to follow through with . . . you know in our free time. Our daughter was six months old at the time and then there’s the need to earn a living. I felt like someone threw an elephant at me and then told me to just run with it.
And somehow, with a lot of help, we did. We did it one day at a time. One therapy at a time. One trial at a time. One smile, one word, one skill, at a time. We watched as our son slowly emerged from a cocoon. There’s still a long way to go, but he’s come so far. We often forget that until suddenly he’s talking and telling us how he’s feeling or he’s sitting next to me singing.