Friday, July 29, 2011

"Normal Is So Overrated"

It was the end of the school year and I was in the check-out lane at the store.
A customer commented, “Wow, you got a lot of cute things!”
I said, “Thanks, they’re for my kids’ teachers.”
Another lady said, “Really?”
I said with a smile, “I don’t exactly have the most well-behaved children in the country. So, I need to kiss up to the teachers a little.”
Both women laughed and agreed, “Well, at least you’re honest.”

This is the story about my oldest son, Wyatt, who is now nine years old. It’s very personal. Maybe a little more than I had initially intended, but I am hoping that when you get near the bottom of this blog that you will see there is a lesson to be learned from this long journey Wyatt has been on. I am really putting my heart out there for this one, but for good reason.

Wyatt seemed to be a typical toddler. He was developing physically just how the experts say they should. Walking on time. Running. Loved to be outside. Knowing his number and his alphabet.

But, on the other hand, there was no attention focus...not even on me for hardly any amount of time. His eyes just seemed to wonder a lot. Unless, that is, he was playing with trains. He would put them in a rows and more rows and more rows. Literally, for hours.

And there were tantrums. Lots of them. I realized later that he was having them, because he couldn’t verbally communicate the way other kids did. Age 2 went by...and then age 3....and age 4...and while he could say words (maybe two or three in a row), there weren’t really sentences and definitely no back and for conversation.

One day I set up water toys in the back yard and he kept screaming “No water play! No water play!” Over and over and over. Finally, his cousin Allie (who was 8 at the time and obviously the most intelligent individual among a group of adults) figured out that he wanted to go to the pond. Wyatt couldn’t just say, “I want to go to the pond.” Think about is my 5 year old son who can’t just simply say, “I want to go to the pond.” Think about times when you get frustrated as an adult because you're unable to find the words to say something and how much more frustrating it must be for a little kid.

However, I kept denying that anything could be “wrong.” That’s what you do when you’re a mom. Especially for a first time mom, it’s just easier to deny that your child is anything but “normal.” After being asked to leave a daycare and a private pre-K due to his behavior, I took Wyatt to AI Dupont Children's Hospital in Wilmington. He was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.

Well, that's when I began researching like a maniac. I went support groups, an Autism conference in New Jersey, sent out and read tons of emails, called doctors and...I did a lot of crying...a lot. I have spent thousands of dollars working to get him better. I wasn’t settling for just the traditional therapies like speech and occupations that insurance covers, so I paid out of pocket on anything that I thought would be worth a try. Biomedical treatments, Methyl B-12 shots (creeping in his room and sticking him quickly in his bum while he was sleeping), chiropractor, Epsom salt baths, supplements, rubbing glutathione lotion on his feet before bed, changes in diet....there's more, but you get the point. (Just for the record, I have done my share of screaming and being completely overwhelmed. I just don’t want to make myself out to be some kind of Supermom. I don't want to take too much credit, because I did what any parent would do and really all the credit goes to Wyatt for putting up with everything we tried.)

Ok, so let’s get to the reason why I am writing something so personal....I used to be you.
I was the one who judged parents and their kids in the supermarket.
When I saw a little boy or girl screaming, I thought, “Those parents need to get that kid under control” or “That child is spoiled.”
You know what I mean, because you’ve thought it too.

Then, it happened to me. I was the one getting stares from parents.
I was the one who was getting those vibes from the person shopping in the same aisle - judging me and my parenting skills.

There were days I had to take Wyatt in the bathroom of a store just to let him get out a tantrum, just to get him into an environment where I could calm him down with out having people give me dirty looks. This was not my fault and it was not Wyatt’s fault. I know it’s easy to judge, because a child with Autism (among many other psychological conditions) can look like a “normal” kid. Just because they look typical on the outside, doesn’t mean they are just like any other kid on the inside. Please, think twice before judging that parent or the child, there could be something going on in their life that you don’t know about. They are going through enough in their homes, they don’t need you staring them down at a restaurant.

That's my lecture...short and to the point...and I hope it hit home with you. 

So how is Wyatt doing now? Three words...I am blessed.
Wyatt has become this delightful, wonderful kid!
I remember when his behavior was suddenly so out-of-control that I never thought the day would come that he would be able to have a play date without me on pins and needles. Now, he could stay over a friend's house and I have no worries.

It used to be that shopping was an errand I would dread. Sometimes, I would have to leave a grocery cart full in the middle of a store and just leave. Now, there’s no hesitation when it comes to going shopping with him.

I used to wonder, “How will I care for him when he gets older and I’m just plain old?” Now, I don’t worry about that. He even talks about going to college. But not like Andy on Toy Story. Wyatt insists that he is not going “away to college,” but will attend a school like Del-Tech where he can come home each night. Too Cute!!!

However, it’s not all perfect. He still needs therapy for speech and occupational. He had to go to summer school this year, because his focus and comprehension in reading is well-below average. There were a lot of notes sent home this year...being defiant in class, getting under a desk or just dazing into another land while lessons were being taught.

BUT he is a great speller. He got a 95 this year for his grade! Plus, he’s good in math and his imagination is beyond my wildest dreams. YAY! He loves the Presidents and can name EVERY ONE OF THEM. He talks non-stop and I love it. To me, there is no such thing as him talking too much. He's also become a little sarcastic and since that's very "typical" for his age, then I relish in it a little with out letting it get out of hand. And most of all, he is sooooo loving. He is constantly hugging me and saying, “I love you.” There is still a lot to work on, and, honestly, our journey with this may never end. But, goodness, that light at the end of the tunnel just seems to be getting brighter and brighter everyday!

I remember the phone call I made to an Autism organization when Wyatt was first diagnosed.
I asked the lady on the other end of the line, “Will my son ever be normal?”
Her reply was one that I now use often about life in general...
She said, “Honey, normal is so overrated.”

Wyatt with Allie (who is a cousin, but is really way more like a big sister - having the unique ability to understand him when others don't and to love him unconditionally no matter how much he teases her) and with his little brother Trey (who always asks Wyatt to draw Wizard Of Oz characters, because Wyatt is so good at it)- oh yes and with the Lake Forest School District Spartan mascot. :-)

1 comment:

  1. This is terrific and yes he is a great kid. And what is normal anyway? Normal is different for everyone, I grew up in the city so row homes and walking to the store and neighbors houses was normal for me. For Ally, Trey and Wyatt growing up on a farm running down to the pond to swim and being around horses whenever they want is their normal. The bottom line is they are happy and healthy and loved.
    And also thanks for the slap on the head because like most of us I also tend to judge. A few weeks ago I was in Walmart and saw a girl and 2 boys her hair was green and the boys were fire engine red. I thought Good Lord!!! A few days later Cierra came over with her hair pink and purple and then Ally and Hope wanted theirs the same colors and guess who dyed it for them??? Yep Me!! lol