As Good As It Gets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Okay, wrote this for an English class. It's still rough around the edges and still needs some work. I don't know if I can get any more personal than this. It's already hard for me to deal with my emotions on this topic.

Submitted: September 18, 2008

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Submitted: September 18, 2008

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When my son, Patrick, was around 16 months old our babysitter approached me and said that she thought my son should be walking by this point. She had a few children and grandchildren, not to mention she had babysat for years. So I figured she knew what she was talking about. I decided to take my small son into his pediatrician to ask why he wasn’t walking yet. Was there something wrong with my baby? The doctor after examining my son said everything looked normal and she thought he was just late in walking and to give it a little more time. He finally walked when he was 18 months old.
As time went by, I watched my adorable little boy with sparkling brown eyes grow into a 2 year old with lots of bounce and excitement in his days. He would play and laugh just like every other normal child, but some things were a little bit different. Sometimes when I touched him, he would say “Owe”. I thought he was playing a game or something so I gently reminded him that I would never intend to harm him. He was the only child I had so I couldn’t compare him to any other child side by side. He seemed happy and healthy. That’s all that mattered to me at that time. 
Over the next couple of years I had other people mention that my son had autistic-like qualities. I ignored what these people had to say. He ran differently and he put his toy cars in one single perfect line. He also wasn’t potty-trained.  PJ didn’t speak using any type of normal sentence structure either. I noticed he would take different thoughts, things from cartoons, and put them all into one sentence.I lived in denial until I couldn’t hide from it any more.
I took PJ to a psychologist at Kids, Inc. which is a clinic for kids with behavioral issues. I asked her if he had autism. She performed some testing on him and tried to interact with him but he showed very little response. She gave him toys, watched what he did with them, and sure enough, he lined them all up. When she tried to change them, he got upset, started to cry, and then yelled at her. She diagnosed him with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a type of autism. This formed a lot of sorrow within me. It’s as if something inside me died. She said she did not want to put him on any medication yet because he seemed like he was doing alright. We went home, and I was still numb from the diagnosis. “How could my son have autism”? “Why me”? I wanted to scream but couldn’t.
Looking back, I remember the grief that I went through. It was hard, but yet cleansing at the same time. Your life is never the same again. I cried a lot for the first year and then finally accepted it. I started worrying about PJ’s future and what he would and would not be able to accomplish in his life. Would he ever be considered “normal” to society? Would he ever get married and have kids? If so, would he have autistic children himself?
After Patrick or as I call him, PJ, turned 6 years old, I was relieved that he was now potty-trained after many years of working on it together. He was now going to special education classes at the nearby elementary school, as well as seeing the therapist on a regular basis.His behavior overall seemed okay. We just had other issues to deal with like me still helping him with bathing and getting dressed. 
However, sometimes he would throw a fit in the mornings by yelling that he didn’t want to wear a particular shirt or something. He would get upset and throw things. To get us both out the door on time for me to go to work and him school, I would have to pick him up and hold him diagonally. I would put my left hand over his legs and my right hand over his back while he would kick and scream while I carried him out to the car. We got funny looks from people sometimes, but I had to be strong and just keep on going no matter what. I tried not to look at these people too much in the eyes. I felt like a bad mom, but at the same time, I couldn’t just give up and sit around feeling sorry for both of us. “What good would that do us”? I wondered, “Is this as good as it gets when you live with autism”? It sure feels like hell sometimes.
PJ was ten years old when problems with his anger started to occur. He would push a child down at school for just cutting in at the lunch line. He also told his teachers he would blow the school up if he didn’t get his way. He got sent to the principal’s office for different behavioral issues.
He was at a daycare while I was at work one day, and when I went to pick him up, the director told me something bad happened. A little boy kept following my son around the playground and PJ kept turning around and telling him to leave him alone. Finally, PJ had the last straw, turned around, and pushed the boy down onto the ground. He then forced rocks and dirt into the boy’s mouth. I was so horrified by what my child had done that I wanted to sit and cry on the spot. This was a wakeup call for me to get him onto some kind of medication. 
I’ve tried a couple of different support groups for parents with autism, but none of them have worked for me. Either they were too intense or they would not let some of the parents talk about what was going on in their lives. There was never enough time for everyone to share their hardships. My support over the last six years has been through my family and close friends who understand our daily challenges. I have been truly blessed to have these people in our lives. My faith in God has increased as well.
I remember once my son asked me if I had autism and I said I didn’t. He didn’t understand why the other kids with autism weren’t just like him. All I could tell him was that it’s like the flu where some people get a touch of it, yet some others have it severely.
PJ is now 12 years old and still has some difficulty socializing with other children, but is not looked upon as an outcast like he was when he was five. Back then, he would approach other children asking them to play with him, but once they would see him running or acting differently than your average child, they would ignore him. This not only hurt his feelings, but broke my heart as well. I would feel like crying when this would happen, but what is a parent to do when their child is looked upon as if he has some awful contagious disease? Maybe it’s because of these kinds of experiences that my son is very negative about life in general. 
I finally was able to teach PJ how to take a shower by himself and I’m so proud of all of the accomplishments we’ve achieved together as mother and son. This task was not easy because there were many attempts before it actually worked. Usually, I would have to bathe him in the tub from head to toe. He did not like the sound of the water from the shower because it was loud and scary to him. I would hold the shower door part way open after turning the water on. I then would help him get the appropriate amount of shampoo and show him how to wash his hair. I would tell him to get the body wash and then go through step by step how to clean his body using a wash cloth. Then he would spin around and rinse himself off. I had his bathrobe hanging up in his bathroom so he could put that on right away to dry off so he wouldn’t have to bother using a towel. He now enjoys taking his showers by himself and feels proud of that major step.
I look some of our obstacles as though they are speed bumps in our road moving forward. Everyone has their own cross to bear and this is mine.
I went to a special conference a couple of years ago in Grand Island. The group is called PEP (Parents Encouraging Parents). They support and guide parents who have children with disabilities of all kinds. The conference was for two and a half days and I learned so much from other parents. I had PJ’s dad take him for the weekend so I didn’t have to worry about him. I was reminded that I don’t have to feel all alone in my struggle to understand and cope with PJ’s autism. I came out of that experience emotionally stronger and refreshed.
I have to admit that when I explain that PJ has mild autism to someone and they then tell me they know someone’s child with severe autism, I feel somehow our situation is minimized. I feel very angry when I feel someone acts as if I have it better than someone else. There are statistics out there that say people with Asperger’s have a higher rate of suicide than others. Plus, I’m a single mom with an autistic child. That makes it even tougher for us. I try not to feel too sorry for us and don’t look for sympathy but for understanding.
PJ has taught me that I’m a lot stronger of a person than I ever thought possible. He has showed me in indirect ways that I am capable of doing things I never dreamed of. I became more outgoing so I could become a good advocate for my son. This took a few years, but I came out of my shell in order to learn more about autism. We’re all unique and special in our own way.
 I want to inform people locally about what it’s like to have an autistic child and to remind them that if they see a person in public acting oddly such as a grocery store to not judge them harshly because maybe they have some kind of disorder. It’s important as well to treat a person with autism as normal as possible. Otherwise, they might tend to dwell on their shortcomings in life and not what life can be…full of promise.
 


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