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Our Son Has Autism

By Kelly Hafer

By Kelly Hafer

That statement seems woefully inadequate after a half-day meltdown consisting of screaming and body slamming. Thankfully, the new med seems to have eliminated his self-injurious behaviors – at least this time. For four hours our family attempted to reassure our six month old daughter. We tried to explain to our other spectrummy son that his older brother was having a rough day, but that he was, physically, alright. And for four hours we stood watch, our stomachs clenched, ready to have to make the tough decision to place our son in a restraint position, should his aggression and penchant for upending furniture take over. Thankfully, again, it didn’t get to that point. Today.

To say that our son has autism doesn’t begin to cover the affects that autism has on our family.There isn’t a night that goes by that bedtime isn’t an exercise in worry. He has a history of lack of sleep and violence and aggression towards his brother at bedtime. My ears ache with the efforts of listening for the sound of movement. Part of our nightly ritual not only includes going over a list of rules for unacceptable behaviors, which seems to constantly grow, but also includes bribery. “What are you working for tonight, son?” We ask. Sometimes the reward is incredibly easy. “I want Cheerios for breakfast.” Okay, Pal. Easy peasy, Bud. Other times, it’s clear that his expectations are not rooted in the here and now: “I want Santa,” or “I want to fly in an airplane.” Yeah, not gonna happen tomorrow. Can you pick something else? And even then, the lure of a reward may not be enough to convince him to make good choices.

We are blessed with four children: our first child is our biological daughter, then comes our two adopted boys, and our brand new miracle baby. The idea that only one person in our family of six – well, technically two of our children are on the spectrum – is affected by this pervasive disorder minimizes everything that every other person in the family has either lost, given up, changed, done with out, or had destroyed. It doesn’t touch missed opportunities, early departures, declined invitations, or flat-out impossibilities. The other children, our marriage, and my health have all been touched by autism. And it isn’t a warm, friendly kind of touch. It’s more of a kick to the gut. And this is just the behavioral piece of our flavor of autism. Add in educational, social, self-care, and health concerns and you can just begin to imagine how autism has changed life as we knew it.

Don’t misunderstand. We never anticipated the blessing of two sons. After fertility issues made a second pregnancy seemingly impossible, we opted to adopt not the one son we planned on, but a set of brothers with delays of then unknown depth. We fought for these boys from the very beginning and will fight until we exhale our last breath. We picked our sons. We love and adore our sons. But to say that our son has autism? It doesn’t even begin to cover autism’s hold on our family.

Kelly Hafer
Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to four children: a 17-year-old neurotypical (if you can say that about a teenager!) daughter, 6- and 5-year-old boys on the spectrum; and, since life was getting a touch boring, another beautiful baby girl. Kelly is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Military Special Needs Network. MSNN is a peer-to-peer support organization founded to respond to the needs of all branches of the military and of our Exceptional Family Members. We strive to provide family and emotional support and lasting friendships – See more at:, or Kelly has been featured in a collection of essays entitled, “Wit and Wisdom From the Parents of Special Needs Children.” She manages the official blog of Military Special Needs Network,, and can be found as a guest blogger throughout the blog-iverse.  You can contact her via email at

About Tidewater Parent Staff

One of our staff who provides news and information for families in Hampton Roads.

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4 thoughts on “Our Son Has Autism

  1. Brenna

    Thanx for sharing. I too understand. I have 3 children with autism. 8 8 and years old. All on different levels of teh spectrum, different kinds of tantrums/melt downs, etc.

    I totally understand.

  2. Dave

    Thank you for taking the time to share this. What a wonderful gift you provided to these children when you decided to share your lives, your time, and your energy with them. As you say, you could have taken a much easier road.

    There are few rewards (in this world, at least) for choosing to help a child with autism. There are no red-carpet interviews, no big pay raises, not even any trophies, unless you count bruises.

    All you get is the knowledge that you did the right thing.

  3. Joni Bateman

    Have you read The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism by Kristine Barnett? My book club (made up of current and retired high school reading specialists) just read this amazing story about a mother who battled the school system, the youth sports clubs, etc. to ensure that all special needs children could participate and succeed. I really connected with this book because I, too, had to fight the school system for appropriate support for my oldest son (now 37) who was identified as gifted in the 3rd grade and learning disabled and ADD in the 4th grade. He graduated from high school as the Valedictorian with enough AP credits to enter college as a sophomore. Keep up the fight.

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