When Austin was first diagnosed I had so many people tell me that with autism, the little things would become the big things. They told me that I would learn to celebrate every minor achievement.
I didn’t find this comforting or encouraging at the time. It kind of frustrated me, to be honest. I didn’t want small victories. I wanted BIG leaps and bounds of progress. I imagined Austin adding new words daily and understanding them, I dreamed of him playing with toys and losing interest in the repetitive behaviors that consumed his days. I wanted him to have an interest in, and engage with, other kids his age.
Basically, I wanted to wake up one day and find that the autism was a mistake. Or that maybe he would “outgrow” it and become one of a minute percentage of children who seem to leave their autism behind as they grow.
One thing that has become very clear over the past few years is that despite steady progress, Austin’s diagnosis wasn’t a mistake. Autism is part of Austin, it is woven into every fiber of his being, and it always will be.
Within the last week or two, Austin has developed a sudden interest in books. It wasn’t for lack of trying in the past, but I could never get him to sit with me to look at one. Or if he did, his attention span was approximately ten seconds.
Now he is taking books off his shelf every night at bedtime and asking me to “wead book?” He comes and sits on my lap and he stays there as long as I keep reading. I love the feel of him cuddled against me, the smell of his shampoo, the way he sometimes looks back at me while I read, and stares at my face.
We read Dr Seuss, and look at pictures of dogs, and colors, and shapes. Austin loves the rhythm of the words. And I love every minute of being able to share this time with my little boy.
We had a birthday party for Austin on Halloween night. It was the first party for him that I invited anyone other than family, and it went so well. For the first time, Austin was very interested in his presents. He sat down and opened every one, and was even excited about them.
It made up for the birthdays and Christmases past where he had no interest in anything.
When we sang “Happy Birthday”, Austin joined in singing loudly, as it’s one of his favorites. I couldn’t quite control the emotion in that moment, as tears of equal parts pain and joy ran down my cheeks.
There have been so many things to celebrate and be excited about, especially lately. Austin’s rapid improvement with expressive language, the fact that he’s fully potty trained, that he has learned to use a regular cup and can use regular toothpaste now.
I don’t feel that old frustration now. Instead, I am overwhelmingly thankful for those little things. Those little things that are really BIG things in our autism world, and have taught me to appreciate and soak in every tiny detail that I would otherwise take for granted.