God has a way of preparing us for what’s to come in our life. Before we even realize what’s occurring, or why he does it. I believe I was born with a love for children. When my baby brother was still an infant I recall sneaking in the room to brush his hair, to make sure he was covered, I remember wanting to nurture him. I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when I began school and my teacher asked “What do you want to be when you grow up Latoya”? I wouldn’t hesitate to say “A Teacher”! Yes at the age of 6 I knew I wanted to be an educator it was because of my love for school but also my love for children.
It amazes me how this never wavered. I would eventually go to college where I majored in child development not even realizing I was learning about children the milestones they would hit at certain developmental ages, the cues to look for if maybe they had a delay or disability. The student teaching that prepared me for working with all children. Who knew that I was not only preparing to work with children in my classroom but also my son at home.
At the age of 24 I gave birth to my first child Aris. His dad chose his name, “Aris is traditionally associated with the Greek God of War, Aris was the son of Zeus and Hera and brother of Eris. He was usually depicted with a shield and sword, wearing a war helmet”….also a coincidence. He was born “prematurely” at 32 weeks but weighed in at 6 lbs 7 oz was healthy and happy otherwise showed no unusual symptoms therefore he was not placed in NICU. He did however fail his newborn hearing screening which the nurse and my OB didn’t seem to think was a big deal actually it’s pretty common, probably more so in premature labor.
At the age of 2 Aris was diagnosed with a Mild High Frequency Sensorineural hearing lost we were told this may be permanent and he was giving bilateral hearing aids. He began speech therapy at home for 2 years before we placed him in a learning center where children received speech and language services it was at this time that he was tested and noted to be on the “Autism Spectrum”. As a mom I would only think about my child and how he would be perceived and treated even gawked upon in public places. But as someone who worked closely with children with disabilities, someone who loved talking to, and teaching disabled children, and to a trained educator I knew he had a bright future.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have moments where I would cry or feel sad because milestones we set out in his plan he still struggled to achieve. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t have moments where I would compare him to other children who made communication look so simple at his age. It would often times make me sad and question “Why was my baby given this struggle? Why would someone so innocent be born into a world where they would have to endure so much scrutiny and pain? I still cry as I write this….
Who would have imagined that all the case studies, all the classroom observations were molding me to be able to care, support, & teach my own child. My son who has a communication disorder and who is also on the Autism Spectrum.
I am forever grateful and blessed to have created a strong support system around him. That not only me and his father but our immediate family are so understanding and supportive. They get that he may not catch on as fast as his peers, he may not understand as they do but he will. It’s all about stating it in a way that he will understand. I love that they acknowledge how it may take him a little longer to comprehend when they ask him to do something, or that he may ask questions because he really doesn’t apprehend what he’s being instructed to do. And how they don’t become frustrated when talking to him. He is different but he is still in essence the same.
I am preparing my child so that when individuals are placed in his presence who may not understand his disability, he has a place where he can go for assistance. He has a safe place where he is not judged or ridiculed. I know that he will face challenges and obstacles that may seem hard that may momentarily break him. I’m letting him know the people he can lean on, the resources he can use because he is destined for greatness I see it everyday.
I love him as I would love any child that’s considered “normal” I love him as I love my youngest son Austin Ryan.
This month isn’t any different than any other month in my household but to the world April is known as Autism Awareness Month. It is when families such as mine get to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands of individuals facing an autism diagnosis each year. To me it’s more, it’s about encouraging my friends, my family and everyone I can reach to become partners in the movement toward acceptance and appreciation for those living on the spectrum.
So not only for my handsome, smart and caring son Aris Hale, but for the tens of thousands of individuals and families living everyday in the trenches, hiding in shadows because they’re afraid of the glares their child may receive, or maybe they’re like me and are afraid people won’t understand their child, that maybe someone, someday will say something rude or obnoxious….and just that one day they may like myself completely and utterly flip. God spare the soul of the person or people who judge my son. Help us in showing support and acknowledgment for the tough fight that is Autism by “LIGHTNING IT UP BLUE” the entire month of April! Wear blue attire, place a blue flag on your home or car, you could even research a autism awareness march to see if one is occurring near you and participate in that occasion.
As our fight has just begin I’ll Light It Up everyday that breath remains in my body.