We’ve Come A Long Way

by PammyMcB

I was looking back at an old journal entry. I cannot believe how far we have come since I posted this:

“Right now we are in the process of getting Damien tested for Autism. For those of you that don’t know, autism is not mental retardation. Autistic children tend to be super intelligent, however, they have a lack of emotional and social awareness. As soon as we noticed the differences between our boys, we had Damien put in ABA training which brought him back partially. The easiest way to describe him is, emotionally empty. He has not even cried for two years. It has been emotionally trying for the entire family. We are beginning to experience difficulties with our other son as well. The boy’s therapist has decided that due to all of the time and energy we are spending on Damien has caused Dylan to start crying out for attention. It just makes me angry that we are just now able to get Damien recognized as autistic, when, in Indiana, he was diagnosed at 16 months of age, as if autism doesn’t cross state lines.”

I, now, know a lot about autism, and I cringe at the thought that I once described my own child as “emotionally empty.” I know that it is true that I felt that way, but you must know how heart-wrenching it was for me as a parent of a child with autism.

When I would hug Damien, I got nothing back. His hugs felt empty and cold. It was just routine to him. The best way to describe how I felt is to give an example. There is an episode of The Simpsons where Bart Simpson sells his soul. Marge hugs him, and she says something like Bart felt empty like he had no soul. There was something missing when I hugged Damien, and I could feel it missing.

Today, the hugs aren’t as important as they were when Damien was young, but they are still important. However, they are different, and they are better. Though they only come when he is stressed or when I have been away for a while, the hugs do not feel empty. I feel a gentle soul in there, a soul that cares about his family and the world around him, a soul that cares for people not only like him but all people.

Life is still emotionally trying, but we have and will continue to persevere.