Tuesday, April 03, 2012

How Autism Hits Close to Home

I left on time, yet I had no chance of making it to Nate's 9 o'clock appointment on time - for no reason that I could see, but there was a reason. The call from the boys' school came at 9:05. School calls normally make me nervous, but this time I just assumed they were wondering about Nate. Not so lucky. Our fabulous school counselor called. My sweet, precious Cade stood in her office unable to calm himself down enough for the classroom. It seems he forgot to do some homework which led to his binder being signed. He feared that he was going to be in trouble and needed to talk to me. I reminded him that his homework is normally due on Thursday, so I understood his mistake and would not punish him for this mistake. I helped him see that everyone makes mistakes. I assured him that there may be consequences to his mistake that he will have to face, but we love him no matter what. I reminded him that we love him, love him, love him. I held the tears in and tried to ignore the painful lump in my throat. You see, he just reminded me of the many challenges that he will have to face. Challenges that I can't fix for him. I checked in on him later, and he was better. It seems the signing of the binder upset him the most since it meant the end of his goal of not having his binder signed all year. The lump and the tears have stayed with me all day, this day designated as World Autism Awareness day.

My joyful, precious, lovable son has a diagnosis of PDD-NOS. What? That stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Crystal clear, right? Basically, he is on the Autism spectrum. He does not meet all of the criteria for Autism nor for Asperger's, but he meets some of them. Think of Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory", but not as extreme. My Cader Raider often sees things as black and white and struggles with understanding sarcasm and jokes. Facial expressions don't provide him with social cues. He struggles socially because he doesn't understand the rule book. He does not have a good understanding of where his body is in the world and struggles mightily with coordination and sports. Ever notice the role sports play with boys and their friendships? Cade does not have a key to that door, and I can't fix it for him. He becomes easily frustrated and shows his frustration by strange body movements and/or meltdowns. His sensitivity to sounds, pain, and/or stimuli can be extreme. Some days are better than other days. He wants to do well and have friends. He wants to be "normal", but he gets that he is different. The list of "quirks" is long. Don't assume that he is mentally challenged, because the boy has some serious smarts. I am so thankful for that, because he has some serious challenges as well, and this momma worries. Lately I have realized the tremendous blessing he is to my life. He loves his family deeply and enjoys snuggling. He is fun to be around. He remains joyful in spite of his challenges. Being his mom has taught me to look at the world differently and to see life from a different perspective. I am not so quick to judge other parents or other children. I "get" that some behaviors cannot be helped. I have also been on the receiving end of judgmental (and ignorant) looks and comments. Cade and I have also been on the receiving end of a lot of unconditional love. God has placed people in our lives who have poured out love and hope into us. All of Cade's teachers and the school staff have truly loved and helped my boy. Family members and friends have made him feel treasured. People at church, like you, Derrick, have loved him and have worked at understanding him and helping him. When the worries hit me hard, I think about these people and about how God has provided them to Cade and to me. Then I have hope that my penguin-loving, Angry Birds-obsessed, sweet-hearted Cader Raider is really and truly going to be okay. Oh how I love him.

- Jenna

1 comment:

Holly said...

You are such a great mom! He is blessed to have you. God knit him together perfectly and these traits will someday be a blessing (if they aren't already). I can certainly relate to working hard for a very long time on a goal and then when the end is in sight, sudden and unexpected failure. Poor guy. Praying for him today!