I remember the joy I had some 11 years ago when I came out of the theatre with my bundle of joy. A handsome boy, Jeremy had been given to me as a gift and I intended to bring him up in the best way I know how. I had fun with him as a baby and at some point when his speech was slow in coming I just thought that it is because he is an only child. At the age of three, I took him to school so that he could enjoy interacting with others and he enjoyed it so much. He never threw a tantrum when I woke him up to prepare him for school. In fact there were many days when he was already up before I went into his room.
I had a good rapport with his teachers and especially the headteacher and would take time to talk about his progress in school from time to time. At one point the headteacher suggested that I take him for speech therapy as this would help him with whatever challenge he had in that area. I took him to one of the best institutions and it helped us greatly. I learned a lot about speech development and I continued this faithfully for about a year.
At this time I had to move from where I was staying due to some challenges and this meant changing schools too. I again enrolled Jeremy in the premier schools in that area and he was doing well in school. One day I got a call from the teacher informing me that Jeremy would not stop crying and this was still early in the day. So instead of reporting to the office, I went straight to school and I got him and we went home. Of course by this time he had calmed down completely.
The teacher requested for a meeting with me the following day after work and I obliged. When I got there, I met also the headteacher to this prestigious school that was larger in capacity and so we had never met. We got into the office and it seemed that the headteacher did not want my child in her school because, as she put it, he was abnormal. Imagine my shock at hearing those words. How can my son be abnormal? Just because he cannot communicate as others do. I was miffed to say the least and yes, Jeremy never stepped into that school again.
So I decided to look into the matter further and I got a government testing center to assess Jeremy. That is when they broke the news to me. My son is mildly autistic, they said. It was a shock. I did not even know what that means so it meant continuing with therapy at the same institution but from a more informed perspective.
I think the reason why it comes as a shock to many when they learn of Jeremy's condition is the fact that you would never tell unless it was told to you. He has his moments when he get quite hyper and some have thought him to be just a spoilt child. But generally, he is calm, thanks to prayers and wisdom in raising him. I do watch his diet somewhat but I have decided not to be limited by it so he eats what we eat. He is very responsible and quite adorable especially now that he has a little brother.
I believe he is growing out of it and yes he does go to school - regular school and not any special institution either. As a family we do not think of him as limited in any way and treat him like we would treat others. I believe this has helped him to not view himself differently and us to know that he can outgrow it and he will soon be out of the woods.
If you have an autistic child or any child with special needs, take heart and believe that you can do it. They need you to believe in them and treat them as such. You owe it to yourself to trust that God gave you a beautiful gift to shower with love and affection.