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Why I Haven’t Stopped Looking

By Kelly Hafer

By Kelly Hafer

Last week I shared my journey to find the right pharmaceutical cocktail for my autistic son. I also expressed doubt as to what the end result all of the chemicals and blood work would be. After all, at the end of the day, I wrote, “he is still going to be autistic.” All week I wrestled with this. Medicating your child is both an intensely personal and complex decision. No one jumps on the med train lightly. And so I mentally revisited all of the meds, the side effects, the benefits. And I stewed. I felt guilty. I dealt with meltdowns. I saw him struggle to express himself. I stopped him from digging into his skin and picking himself until he bled.

Concurrent to all of my internal struggles, we happen to be currently ramping up a brand new medication. My son shows all the signs of experiencing sub-clinical seizures. His general confusion, inability to communicate in more than 5-6 word sentences, and heretofore unseen capacity to express complex thoughts punctuated by incredibly rare bouts of remarkable intelligence, along with numerous other symptoms seem to suggest absence seizures. And, so, we are on our third antiepileptic. We’re trying Trileptal. It’s been wildly uneventful, or so I thought.

And then: breakthrough. Out of the blue, clear as day, my son looked at me and said, “Mommy, I need to poop.” I’ve written about our potty training challenges extensively here, for example. This simple declaration and subsequent bowel movement were more progress in the potty training department than we have seen in three years. I’m not kidding. Three years – two duty stations ago.

And then, another breakthrough in the same week. He told a joke. I know. This seems so simple, so very non-breakthrough-y. But it was. It is. He told an age-appropriate, actually funny joke. And he smiled. And laughed. Then I laughed. And cried, thankful for this fleeting moment.

The next day it was a complex sentence, complete with subject/verb agreement, conjunctions, and correct pronoun use. This was a good sentence: “Mom, I’d like to get napkins for AJ (his brother) and me. Is that okay?” Is that okay? It’s incredible! It’s beautiful!

Over the past week or so, I’ve seen a couple of brief breakthroughs every day. Oh, God, they are always far too brief. Similar to those soft rays of sunlight that manage to poke through the cloudy, stormy sky, their presence always strike me as miraculous and serve as a reminder that there is always hope. Especially for my son.

This, THIS, is why I keep searching for the right cocktail for my son. This is why I will never stop searching.”

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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One thought on “Why I Haven’t Stopped Looking

  1. Karen V.

    Tears today and thanks for this my friend. We are doing that cocktail dance right now and I’ve seen those little rays of sunshine before. We’re very cloudy now, but this post, more than anything is helping me through my day.

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