As humans, I think we are designed to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We gear up all the energy that we have, get a running start, and do everything we can to get to that light. But what happens when that light is not as visible? What happens when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight?
I’ve been having meeting after meeting lately while we prepare to transition E out of Early Intervention and into the next phase of services. Part of this is a Future Planning Meeting, where we talk about what my hopes and goals are for E. I remember the meeting last year. I was optimistic. I had heard so many success stories about kids who after a year of therapy, their progress really took off. The speech kicked into place and things just got easier. When E’s third birthday rolled around, I remembered that meeting and I felt a loss all over again. A loss for all the hopes that I had for him in the past year. My original hopes were adjusted when he was diagnosed, and I had acquired new hopes. E actually has progressed. He has made a lot of changes. But as any parent of a special needs child knows, with progress, comes new difficulties. E becomes more aware of his environment. E becomes more anxious and sensitive to those things around him. E becomes more fearful. E becomes destructive as he learns to explore his environment.
As he has learned to say certain words and babble I find myself so excited for him. So excited that he is learning how to form sounds, and say words that are functional. E hears a door open somewhere in the world; on the tv, upstairs, in the neighbors house (That E Boy has supersonic hearing when he wants to). He says “door opennnn”…. I get so excited that he is aware enough to notice that the door is open and to say that phrase. I start to think, “Wow he is going to talk. I am so happy for him! Things are going to get easier.” But then that excitement fades as it stays the same. The same standstill. Last June, he imitated his first word, I was elated. A year later he does not imitate that word anymore. He does not imitate more words. He imitates a different word. I am ready for the progress, but it seems to just be parallel progress.
Preparing for my next Future Planning Meeting, I thought, “What are my hopes”? The meeting came around, and they asked the questions. “What is E doing differently this year? What has he overcome? What are his strengths”, and lastly, “What are your hopes for him?” Adjusting what I want, I told them I don’t have specific goals. My hope? For him to be happy.
Having a child with autism, it often seems suffocating. I get to a breaking point where it seems I can not stretch anymore, but then against all odds, I do.
Today, I heard a crash from the basement. I went down to find E shattering an heirloom. Picking it up again and again. Smashing it into thousands of pieces. The one thing I had that had been passed onto me from that grandparent. My heart broke. I was devastated. I can tolerate him pouring fruit loops all over the floor. I can tolerate him ripping a key off of my keyboard. I can fix those things. What I can’t handle? Him destroying something so irreplaceable and special to me.
Hope can be dangerous when you are dealing with autism. Every child is so different and I have no idea what to hope for. I hope that I can handle the next year. I hope that I can be a good parent. I don’t hope for things to get easier, and I don’t hope for progress. I want it. But if I hope for it, I don’t think I can handle the pain from that being crushed. Again and again.