When Nicky was 21 months his pediatrician referred us to a Dr. Snodgrass in search of a diagnosis. I remember thinking; with a name like that he'll be a dinosaur filled with old school ideas. I managed to convince myself not to like him before we even met and I wasn't disappointed. He came in the exam room and he was indifferent. A quick hello to mom and dad and then he began to speak his observations of Nicky into his handheld tape recorder instead of addressing us. I remember little of what he said into his recorder, but I do remember when he decided he was done, he turned to us and said "I'm not sure if he has autism. I would not diagnosis him at this age. No matter what happens saying he has autism and treating him like he's autistic could be the worst thing you could do." Then he excused himself and left the room. There we stood feeling frustrated and more confused. It was years later that I understood what he was saying, and his profound advice became one of the treads that has run through our entire journey. He was saying "If you treat him like he's autistic, instead of treating him like a child, a boy, a person, YOU, not his autism will be the greatest barrier to him reaching his potential". He was challenging me to keep my focus on Nicky and to not let my parenting or his life be defined by the boundaries imposed by the diagnosis of Autism.
The most consistently, complicated and heartfelt challenge of parenting Nicky is trying to tease apart when I should parent him like any other boy, when I need to parent him as a boy with autism and when am I making excuses for his or my behavior because he has autism? I have to look in the mirror and honestly ask myself "Am I part of the problem or the solution? and "Are my decisions pushing Nicky forward. treading water or holding him back?.
This question has never been more important than it is now, during puberty. Nicky is officially on his way out of boyhood and into manhood and I'm emotionally tied to my little boy. But, it doesn't matter that he's still young, his body is becoming a grown man and that's how the world will see him. A man who's jumping, grunting, humming and touching - who we could make excuses for in the past - is now just frightening to people. It kills me, but I see the fear on peoples faces when he comes up to them to fast or starts jumping and making loud unintelligible sounds. I have to face that Nicky isn't a little boy anymore. This is the time when there are no excuses. Society will not excuse his inappropriate behaviors and neither can I.
It's time for the mama to toughen up and Man UP!
Wish me luck.