Our Son Has AutismBy 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 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: http://