When Colvin was three, my marriage ended. It was pretty nuclear, and far overdue. Without the help of my best friend, I don’t know how I would have endured the events that happened over the course of that year.
Colie and I shared a room at my friends house with her husband. At the time, it was becoming obvious that Colie was experiencing some strange social delays. He never spoke a word, he wasn’t very affectionate, and it took no less than the hand of god to force him to look at me for more than a few minutes. He has always been, however, very bright. From the moment he took apart the DVD player I saw his intelligence.
A newly single parent, I set out to rebuild my life, and in this journey I was determined to answer a few questions about Colie’s quirks.
I made an appointment to see the Alta Loma school district diagnostic team, and just like that we began the process.
We played with blocks, plates, talked, and three weeks later we met for our last interview.
I remember standing and holding Colie because at the time he was afraid to stand alone in new places. The diagnostician said in her happiest school teacher voice “we’re thinking Autism, with cognitive delays.”
Suddenly Colie’s 45 pounds felt so heavy in my arms. She had to repeat this about four times before I understood what she had told me.
When I finally took her words in, I dropped the contents of my purse all over the floor.
She handed me a pamphlet and sent me on my way, as if she hasn’t just delivered to me the most devastating news I’ve ever heard.
I drove back to my friends house in silence. The usual hum of the radio was clouded by a loud rushing sound in my ears.
Like any good mom, I pulled up to the house and ushered my son inside for some overdue chicken nuggets and milk. When he sat to eat, I walked to our temporary room and collapsed into the closet to cry.
I don’t know how long I sat there. It felt like hours, but it may have only been a short while. My fiend came home to find me in a hunch. She threw her arms around me and shared my hurt.
I showed her the packet. It was littered with terms and acronyms that I had never before seen. Somewhere in that mess was the answer to all of my questions.
Colvin cannot stack three blocks.
Colvin scratches when upset.
Colvin does not engage in imaginary play.
Colvin does not make eye contact.
Colvin does not respond to his name.
Colvin does not have friends.
Reading it made my stomach turn. I don’t know why, but I blamed myself.
What did I do to make him like this?
It was as if all of the hopes I had for his future died with that diagnosis. I couldn’t help but linger on the thoughts that he may never go to college, have a girlfriend, drive a car, keep a job.
Most parents can predict that if they work hard, then their children will someday end up like everyone else. Another generation of breeders to have viable children who will, in turn, breed more viable children. For me, that was it. No more kids, possibly no grand kids. My line ends with Colvin.
I had no idea how Autism would impact out little family. Slowly but surely, we began to rebuild. That day, I had no idea how proud he would make me.
When Colie enrolled at Decker, he was the ONLY child who was potty trained. In the severe class, potty training was a huge deal.
Admittedly, this was no small task. Colie hated the toilet. He often hid to defecate in random areas of the house, or urinated in drawers to hide it. Sometimes in his lack of bodily awareness, he would just go- in the car, the store, the kitchen.
When he finally used the bathroom on his own, it was as if he had discovered radium. I was the envy of other ASRD moms, and praised for my ability to teach him. The truth was, it was all Colie.
Colie is brave, and he trusts me. Together we have accomplished many things based upon the union of these two strengths.
His fear of the vacuum that once sent him trembling and screaming into the bathroom was overcome last year. I’m currently one of the few mothers with whom I share this lifestyle that can clean the floor with only moderate irritation.
When Colie was diagnosed, I thought I had lost something. The truth was, I never had anything to lose. Colie has brought more richness and strength into my life then I ever thought I would have. He has taught me the value of patience, bravery in the face of judgement, and pride in small achievements.
In short, I look up to him. He’s already a stronger person than I have ever been. His determination to make mom proud is nothing short of inspirational.
Today Colie is approaching 6. He has one friend. He looks at me. He stacks blocks. He says a few words, and these things don’t matter too much. The value of my son runs so much deeper than can be determined from a packet of terms. At 6 years old, he is my teacher, a leader for positive choices, a reminder of unconditional love.
To the diagnosticians: put that in his IEP!