By Brett Eastwick
Someone once said never underestimate what a parent is willing to do for his child. Parents of children with autism know this maxim all too well. It is not easy being a parent, even with unlimited resources, family members, and a supportive spouse. But bring into the fold a diagnosis of autism, and suddenly you feel as if the world has swallowed you up.
And any parent who has gone through this five years ago, 10 years, 20 years ago, it was even more difficult. Today, the level of awareness is high. It seems as if everybody knows someone that is on the spectrum. That has not always been the case, nor has it always been that people accept our children for who they are. We all have experienced “the look.” The look of confusion as to why our child is making odd sounds, why they are flapping their hands, why a sudden noise sends them into hysterics. We are at fault. They just need to behave. They need more discipline. We are coddling them. I have heard all of this before, as I am sure you have. It makes you want to cry. It makes you want to lash out. It makes you want to hide away from the world.
I have lived in the world of autism for 10 years. My son, Wyatt, brought me into it. He is why I left my previous career as a veterinary assistant and became an ABA therapist. He could not speak. Learning was aversive and almost impossible for him. He could not communicate with us. I refused to let him stay trapped in his own world by himself.
The methods of verbal behavior analysis did not take him out of that world, so much as it allowed me to enter into it with him. Wyatt has hundreds of signs, and knows how to compel those around him to engage him that way. After six years of continued therapy, he has learned so much. But this is where the rest of the world still lags behind. It is not over. He will not be “cured”, especially since he is not sick. He has autism. He will always have autism. I will always be a parent of a child with autism. I do not think about the magic day Wyatt will be like typically developing children, when I no longer work with children of autism. Wyatt and I are in this wonderful world together. We all are in this community of parents with autism. And I would not have it any other way.
Brett Eastwick is a therapist at Little Star Center. His son, Wyatt, has autism.