Sunday, April 27, 2008

At Our House Every Month is Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month and for my April Blog entry, I thought I'd help with that awareness by writing about the most amazing boy that I have ever met - my son Alex. Alex is fifteen and he is severely autistic. You've probably heard of Autism, but may not be sure what it is exactly. Autism is a disorder with no known cause and no known cure that affects the ability to communicate and the ability to process information. Despite many common characteristics, virtually every incidence of autism - and it is becoming more and more common - is different and unique.

Alex seemed to be like other babies until he was two, when he suddenly withdrew. He stopped talking and stopped playing with toys. It took more than a year for us to finally get a diagnosis and it was quite simply the worst year of our life. Since then Alex has only spoken on two ocassions. After a lot of hard work and therapy he did start playing with toys, but that is a skill that comes and goes and unfortunately is currently gone. (We are determined to make sure it comes back.) Like many autistic children, Alex is also epileptic and has a great deal of seizures which hamper his mental progress and also put him at risk for various accidents and injuries.

Many people can see and understand how this is difficult. And, for the most part, people are understanding and try to be helpful. (There are a surprising number of really obnoxious people out there who like to stare, point and make comments, but they are in the minority.) What most people could never understand, though, is how great a kid Alex really is and how rich our life is for having him.

Like I said, Alex cannot speak or communicate in any normal terms. Yet, person after person falls under his spell. I can write books with tens of thousands of words in them, but I cannot find any words that accurately describe how it is that Alex makes people fall in love with him. He is smart and funny and can wrap his fingers around your heart with a dexterity typically reserved for concert pianists and safecrackers.

I had planned to have so many discussions with Alex, explaining the world to him. But, instead he is constantly explaining it to me. The world is what we make of it and the key to doing that is realizing who we are and what makes each one of us special. It is at the heart of every word that I write and it was taught to me by a boy with no words at all.


Aimee Friedman said...

Jamie, Thank you for sharing this with us. Your son sounds truly amazing, and you are so strong. I wish your family all the best.

Steph said...

Just wanted to drop in and say that this was a beautiful post. Like Aimee said, Alex sounds like an amazing person. I, too, wish you all the best.