We’re so honored to have Luke and his mom Keisha for today’s Meet a Small Fry. April marks “Autism Awareness Month” and it is a diagnosis that effects 1 in 68 children now. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t start really tracking Autism until the early 2000s, and since then numbers have increased by leaps and bounds. Now, we don’t have any answers, we wish we did, but we are so appreciative of Keisha to shed the light on her experience with Luke and her thoughts on early diagnosis.
“Autism. One word that changed me as a mother, wife, and human being forever. It is a word I couldn’t say for almost a year without sobbing every time it was said out loud. There are really REALLY hard things that come your way as a parent when you have a child struggling with tantrums, self regulation, sensory issues, language delays, social awkwardness, or any of the signs of autism.
You naturally have these dreams as a mother when you’re pregnant with your baby of what they will be like, the friends the will make, the things they will say, but when those dreams you’ve been dreaming about don’t seem to be happening, it pierces your soul. You long for those special moments with your child that never seem to come. You want them to tell you about their day, show excitement when you take them to a new place, or interact with the neighbor kids… it eats you up not having those moments. But when they do happen, we call them extraordinary normal moments at our house. Because we’ve worked so hard to get them. It has taken countless hours of therapy to have that moment where your child kindly shares a toy, or says something to you about what they did at school that day. When those moments happen that you’ve longed for for who knows how long, it brings you to your knees in tears of joy.
I think that is the ironic thing about autism for me is that I hate it but I love it all at the same time. I hate it because it is something I can’t control or fix (and I’m a control freak!) I hate it because it makes Luke different and not always in a positive light for others around him. I love it because it is a part of Luke, and I’m obsessed with him – every part of him. It has introduced me to families that are fighting so hard and accomplishing miracles every day. It has changed me as a mother for the better, I’ve gained so much patience and understanding for all children.
I’ve become a fighter, an advocate, and it has brought out this passion and fire I never knew was inside of me. I have a mission as a mother. I’m out to help my son Luke and all children with developmental delays have a better chance. At the end of the day, I just want my son to be happy, and right now he is.
Luke is one of the happiest kids I know. He is really never in a bad mood. His smile lights up the room as well as his words. I melt to butter when he tells me I’m the best mom in the entire world. He’s fiercely loyal. Confidence in who he is is remarkable. If you say you are a goofball to him, he will promptly correct you with “No mom, I’m Luke- the kid.” Obviously from that statement, being literal is one our family favorites about him. There is no messing around with that. EVER. (We learned never to say ‘liar, liar, your pants are on fire’) His sidekick Graham (our almost 2 year old) is his greatest treasure. I write about their relationship here. Trains fascinate him. But most importantly, he loves to be loved.
If Luke and I could leave you with one challenge it would be this, don’t wait! If you think your child has signs of autism, find help immediately, even before a diagnosis. Our pediatrician gave us great advice when we were starting to address Luke’s issues, he said this “Keisha, ages zero to five you are laying and building a foundation and structure like you would with a house. You can add and remove rooms etc. if you need to. After five it becomes more difficult and you are just working on the finish work and decor.” We’ve taken that to heart and hit therapy and early intervention hard and we’ve seen results. There is help out there, it can be hard to find, but it is out there. And one last thing, love your child (with autism or not) for who they are, and celebrate the things they are good at.”
Catch up with Keisha and Luke via her blog about Autism, Toast With Cheese.
Photos by Chelsey Searle.