The Facts

My initial response is to write the facts.

It's always the last paper in the pile. Behind the registration card and the emergency contact card, behind the PTA enrollment form and the school policies page. It's the "About You" questionnaire. The "Getting To Know Your Child" worksheet.  

What is your child's favorite food? What are your child's hobbies? What would your child like to be when he grows up?  

Absolutely, I have an idea of what I could write on those blank lines. I am Camren's mother and know him better than anyone else. There are certain things Camren likes, and there are certain things he does not. But the truth is, I don't really know all the answers to these things because he's never told me. He can't tell me. Not entirely. And what I wouldn't give to be able to unlock that mind of his, to see the answers for myself. Verbal language--something that frequently alludes him--is the key to discovering what's inside.

So I do my best. I answer the questions. I feel fairly good and confident about my answers. And then I see the last question:

What else would you like us to know about your child?

My initial response is to write the facts.

In August of 2013, James and I met with a psychologist in a small exam room--furnished with a child-size table, brightly colored chairs, and several bins of toys--and watched as he administered the ADOS test to our son. We were strangely calm and hopeful, despite being fully aware of the ominous presence in the room. It sat on our shoulders and whispered in our ears:  Autism. And when the psychologist uttered words like, "spectrum disorder," and "Asperger's," we did not flinch.  

Since that day, we have read pamphlets, print-outs, and books. We have met with school teachers, speech therapists, and pediatricians. We have sat side-by-side through IEP meetings; sobering experiences that simultaneously fill your heart with peace and pain. Last spring we spent a day at a disabilities conference, learning about how to best support children with special needs. 

Camren and I have spent hours together in speech therapy--playing Memory to learn proper nouns, engaging in ring tosses to learn action verbs, reviewing flashcards depicting various emotions and helping Cam to identify them. We've had months and months of occupational therapy, where we've been introduced to the life-saving wonder of "joint compression" and the joy of "plastic ball pits" for sensory integration.

Sensory integration. My vocabulary contains words like, "sensory intergration," now.

My initial response is to write the facts. But in a moment of freedom and unapologetic defiance, I say to hell with the facts and the diagnoses and the labels. My son is not "the facts." He is not his diagnosis. He is not a label.

What else would I like you to know about my child?

He is hilarious and charming--with a gappy smile so cute it knocks you off your feet when he flashes it your way. He is delightfully quirky. He is stubborn and smart. His mind absorbs everything; his laugh defines joy. He is full of surprises and his brilliance is astounding. Look into his dark-as-night eyes long enough and I promise you'll see stars there. There's wisdom and depth in there, too.

I can't tell you what he wants to be when he grows up--what his aspirations are, what constitutes the stuff of his dreams. He's a little boy on a journey, with a long way to go, but I will tell you this...

No.  I will promise you this...

He will be amazing.  



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