Mothering an autistic child can be challenging. Add middle age to the mix and life can seem unfair. I don’t know why exactly, but yesterday ganged up on me. From the moment I woke up, it smelled of bad day. I was less productive than intended. Then I received some news that didn’t sit well and gave me heartburn. Absent-mindedly cut my nose with scissors trying to trim my lady mustache. My husband looked at me blankly when I yelled at him for breathing. Additionally, my back ached from an overly enthusiastic tabata exercise move. On top of that, the fact my body doesn’t bend like it used to annoyed me. In short, I was having one of those “everything is dirty and broken” days, as coined by my friend, Kirsten.
By contrast, my 9YO son, Devlin, was having a stellar day. He has a full-time para/aide/shadow at school to help keep him engaged and on track with school work. The reason my autistic child was having a great day stemmed from taking his first elementary school test completely by himself. Thanks to federally-mandated enforcement to protect special needs children, he can access a regular school curriculum. The laws include: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Acts. These laws form the basis of his Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Later that afternoon, he sang holiday songs and stood with his school chorus for over an hour on the front row. Singing with his classmates in a large auditorium with hundreds of people packed in has sent him literally running away to escape in the past.
Regardless, the weather was gloomy and I remained in a funk. Devlin came to me after dinner as I rested on my bed. His hair was wet, freshly washed from a bath, wearing his favorite skull and crossbones pajamas. He crawled in next to me and hugged me tight as he grinned ear-to-ear. Then he saw tears in my eyes. Empathy doesn’t come naturally to Devlin. He has had to learn to read other’s emotions through intensive ABA therapy. He wiped my tears and asked me if I was sad. I told him yes, that sometimes mommies get sad, but I would be okay. Then he proposed to sing a song to me to make me feel better. Dev will hum songs to himself, but he has never sung a song to me as he gets too self-conscious.
He didn’t stop my tears as he sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but he made me remember how powerful love is.