23 Years after my daughter was born, my son was born. He is the most beautiful child with the face of an angel. He was born by cesarean section. I asked for an epidural because I wanted to be awake during his birth. At the time of his birth I had never even heard the term Autism.
At 10 months old he experienced periodic problems with his ears, nose and throat and had several courses of antibiotics. Grommets were placed in his ears and his tonsils and adenoids were removed. His body did not react well to the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine. He got a very high fever, which the pediatrician said was normal in some cases. I sat up with him most of the night. After the vaccine his sleep pattern changed and he currently still has problems with sleeping.
He started walking at the age of 11 months and saying simple words. At 17 months David suddenly retracted into his own world. He now sat in his rocking chair for hours on end, rocking himself, without uttering a sound. I took him to many doctors and specialists. Blood tests, scans, genetic testing, etc. was done. I was told that David was retarded and should be institutionalized.
At the age of 3, I took David to Brittan where he was diagnosed with Classic Autism. I was told that no one knew what triggered Autism and that it was difficult to diagnose Autism because the symptoms were different with everyone. The specialist told me that David had a very severe form of Autism and that I should institutionalize my son. He said that David would never talk or have any kind of life.
I refused to accept anything I heard. I fought with God and everyone around me. I wanted to shift mountains to help my son, find a cure for Autism, but I could not. My son did not talk at all; he just made noises and constantly hit and bit himself and anybody or anything around him. He also fell over backwards easily and constantly hit his head on the floor when he fell. I thought, “I am doing something wrong, I am his mother, why can’t I get this right!”
When it was bath time, he screamed as if he was dying. He hated getting his hair washed. He would not allow me to cut his nails; I had to wait for him to fall asleep. Any noise made him scream and bump his head against the wall repeatedly. Everything was a battleground. I went from doctor to doctor, psychologists, you name it, I did it. I became more and more isolated and doubted my ability as a parent. His father was the first person to leave.
I decided that I would remove everything from his life that I knew irritated him. I reasoned that if I removed it, it would help him to get better. I turned my home into a Studio / Playground. No-one came to visit anymore. I had the rooms painted with eggshell and sound proofed.
I took my son’s rocking chair and turned it so that he faced a wall. He just kept on rocking in his chair. I prayed. I mixed water paint and started painting on the wall while playing classical music very softly. He rocked. I prayed and painted. He rocked. This went on for 4 months and 3 days. We went through exactly the same routine every day. We had no visitors. My domestic helper did our shopping, we went nowhere. One morning I heard a sound and he was pointing his finger at the wall.
He did not speak, he pointed and when I did not understand what he wanted, he had mega tantrums. One morning he just got out of his rocking chair on his own free will and went on the rampage. As time passed his behavior became more uncontrollable.
Most of the time it was only my pity and love for this angel faced boy that kept me from strangling him! Sometimes I hated him, I hated God, the world, myself.
At night, I would lie in my bed and worry about my son. Why did God not cure my son? Why did my son have Autism? What was going to happen to him? Who would look after him if I should die? How would he look after himself one day? What did I do wrong that God is punishing my son? Why my son? Why did God give him to me like this?
I hovered between accepting the doctor’s diagnoses that he would never talk or do anything for himself and fighting with God and everybody around me because what the doctor’s said, just could not be true. Not my son! I had so many dreams for him. He would go to university, become a pastor one day. I would make sure that he had all the opportunities that I never had.
His fourth birthday was coming up and he had no friends, neither did I. He was a picky eater. He only ate chips dipped in tomato sauce and drank water with it. I made a cake anyway. The next day I got up with a heavy heart. That night I had contemplated killing us both. We had no life, no friends, nothing to look forward to. What would happen to my angel if I died? No one would take care of him, no one! He was four years old and he was not yet potty trained and afraid of everything.
I told David that it was his birthday and that he could have the first piece of the cake and that it was OK if he smashed it. He just looked at me. I cut the cake and gave him a piece and he did nothing. He just held it in his hand and looked at me. Instinctively I told him that it was also OK if he wanted to eat it.
His first cry when he was born was the most beautiful sound that I have ever heard in my life, but the sound that he made and the look in his eyes when the shoved the cake in his mouth and ate some of it was like waking up in heaven. Many things went through my mind at that moment. I also made peace with Autism.
I realized that it did not matter who or what he was, he was my son and I loved him. I realized that I was only human and that my son was not to blame because he had to live with Autism. I realized that he was braver than I, that I understood my world and that my world was alien to him. I realized that If God had to take him away, my life would never be whole again, and right at that moment I accepted him with his condition, unconditionally.
Today I realize that from the moment that I made peace with the fact that Autism is not curable and that he will always be on the Autism Spectrum, my world to recovery and his journey into adventure started. I realized that I could not cure him, but I could help him to become the best that he can be.
From here his story progresses rapidly. My son is now 12 years old. He got potty trained at the age of 10 years, three months and 2 days. I stood in front of the church crying and told everybody that my son had not wet his bed for 2 weeks!
He has the most fantastic photographic memory and never forgets anything that he reads. Yes, he reads everything and anything. He does not understand everything, but he is making progress. We use lots of computer programs and books and pictures and go on lots of outings because that helps him to understand the world he lives in. If people stare at his odd behaviors I ignore them. I am proud of my son. He has more guts than most people that I know.
He writes done everything he sees and hears, number plates, advertisements, names of buildings, names of cars, and makes up stories using himself as the hero. He speaks and understands some Zulu, Afrikaans and English. He does have some speech difficulties which we are working on. He can spell words that most people have problems with.
I decided to present my son with as much as possible real-life experiences and to empower him to do things on his own. He now eats spinach, carrots, broccoli, rice, potatoes, meat, eggs and brown bread as well. He makes his own bed, washes dishes, makes tea and loves to help me make cake and decorate it. He sees to it that the dogs are fed, and the table is set with every meal.
He prays before he eats: “Tank u Got fo de food, aaaamen!” We go to the zoo and do shopping during the week when it is not so crowded. We run and cycle together and he has decided that his new stepfather is OK. We still have very few friends, but the friends we have, are worth having!
Yes, he is still on the Autistic Spectrum and I have made peace with the fact that there is still no cure for this condition.