Noah’s Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is merely a shadow now, barely visible except to those who know him best. This may change as he gets older and variables like driving, dating, and sports continue to distinguish him from his peers. We celebrated his 8th birthday yesterday, and he got the bike he wanted. He also got the basket and the bell he had requested for the bike. Now, I’m not sure how he’s going to pull off a basket and a bell on a Mongoose dirt bike. It doesn’t quite scream “bad to the bone,” as was his original intent, but we gave him what he asked for. It’s tantamount to his wearing knee-high Christmas socks to camp the other day, or changing his pj’s twice a night because the feeling of a waistband on his skin drives him batty. It’s the little things like this that distinguish him, that whisper of his uniqueness, that make us smile.
Noah met a new friend last week who is virtually his twin. A wonderful woman who boards her horse with mine encouraged her 9-year old Aspie son to meet Noah. As we suspected, they were off and running from the start. They made a point of interrupting our lesson to speculate to my trainer how she might solve the ant infestation problem in her tack room, as they had located the source and thought they had developed a solution. I was elated the rest of the day. Here were two boys who “got” each other right from the start. Their silences were not awkward. Their conversation wasn’t forced. They were alternatively content to ramble on one subject or another.
And then a few days ago at the pool, I met a woman whose son was severely autistic. I watched him in the pool, bobbing in place. He slapped the back of his hands together in a rhythm only he understood. His slack mouth hung open and wide in a smile. His mother told me he didn’t speak. She received her diagnosis from the Kennedy Krieger Institute – the same place where we received Noah’s. Then, Noah came over in a flurry, asking for money so that he could buy a snow cone with the other boys. I was almost embarrassed to admit to her that he, too, was on the autism spectrum. Noah’s flapping has abated, his eye contact is better. Except for the barrage of words and his tendency to interrupt us (a characteristic that is shared by many neuro-typical 8 year olds, not just Aspies), his disability is well hidden. How could two mothers bear sons with the same disability, and there be such a disparity in circumstances? How could her life be so much harder than mine?
I realized then how sweet our circumstances are. Our son’s progress – with the help of talented teachers, therapists, and doctors – has been remarkable. An early diagnosis and parents with a fierce determination to give Noah every advantage also contributed. We struggle with much, but not nearly as much as others. Life is indeed sweet.
Gratitude is the twin of sweetness. I am humbled by how the Lord has stayed his hand on us and given us no more than we could possibly bear. I am grateful that Noah is on the upswing. I thank God for Noah’s uniqueness, and though our neurologist said there is no “curing autism, but managing it,” we seem to have reached some kind of happy, managed stasis.
I am grateful for the sweetness. I thank the Author for it. I’ll take it while it lasts.