The Upside of Autism
As I look back on the last 13 years with my sweet son with autism, I am amazed at where this journey has taken us. In the beginning I could only see the bad. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and grieving the loss of my expectations for this child and our family.
We got busy within a week of confirmation of the diagnoses. Back then he was 1 in 500 and the doctor’s were hesitant to give your child a label. But I needed a plan of action and a diagnosis would give me a starting point.
Two years before this, when Jacob was a new baby, I met a woman in the grocery store and we started a conversation about our kid’s diets. She was so friendly and we decided we should get together. She gave me a business card and wrote her number on the back because it wasn’t her card, the card said “Cure Autism Now”. Two years passed and of course I stuffed that card in my wallet and went on with life. When I started to suspect that Jacob wasn’t developing normally I looked for more information. He had most of the signs for autism but I couldn’t get in to see any specialists for three to six months. It was then that I remembered the friendly woman and the card in my wallet. I called her and was able to pick up right where we left off. I asked her about the card and she said she had a son with autism. I remember vividly sitting on the phone with her for 2 hours as she told me about her son and we discussed similarities in our children. I finally found someone who knew what I was going through and had some answers and a place to start. She let me cry on her shoulders many times and we became great friends. Even carpooling back and forth to Dallas to take our children to the only ABA school in the DFW area at the time.
Since then, I have met many more wonderful friends that are on this journey with me. My friend Mika, also introduced me to FEAT-NT and I learned that giving back gave me a sense of self worth and a reason for what we live out.
Now that Jacob is 15 I tend to to forget about how about how difficult those first few years were. We have many great stories of seeing the good in others as they realized our “special” child. He is definitely special. He has absolutely made me a better mother. It can be so easy to overlook milestones in your third child but we learned to celebrate every little thing. I also cherished the firsts with my my two older children that Jacob wouldn’t experience. You know, driving lessons, first date, going off to college. My daughter also decided to go to Prom with a boy who had autism. His parents brought him over and took pictures. It was truly an act of love on my daughter’s part and meant alot to all of us.
If you decide to look for the good in life, the hard times are a little easier to manage. I hope to share some of those with you.
Melinda Needs, Board Member
Melinda has a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and Elementary Education and worked professionally as a speech pathologist. Her son was diagnosed at two years of age. Since then Melinda has dedicated her time to caring her son with Autism and her other children while navigating through the many treatment options her son has received. She and her husband have been married for over 25 years. She is active in the autism community and heads up many of our Family Fun Days, community events and the Parents of Children with Autism Support group meetings.