This “In Their Own Words” essay was written by Jessica Fournerat, who has a five-year-old son with PDD-NOS.
This is hard for me to admit, but as I meet more and more parents in similar shoes, I feel more comfortable opening up about my feelings about having a child on the spectrum.
All my life I have been a helper and have felt a calling to reach out to others, a calling that I never seemed to find the right way to fulfill. All the while I swore I would never have children.
Flash forward several years and I was pregnant in a new city with a new husband. I found myself in a quiet moment talking to my God.
“Ok, so God here’s the deal. I know I’m an older mom and that my baby may have challenges. That’s okay, I can love any child, but I am not sure I am up for the challenge of a child with autism. I don’t know how to relate to someone who is shut off from the world.”
You see, like many people who had no experience with autism, I was under one huge misconception. Those children with autism were emotionally cold and could not feel love for or from their parents.
Well, God answered my prayer and gave me the most amazing child I could have asked for. Jaxson was a smart, funny, stubborn, super active child with an amazing sense of empathy. Soon after learning to walk he blessed us with what we called “Run and Hugs.” He would run from the other side of the room, crash into us and hug us so tight. Sometimes he would come up behind me and just squeeze as tight as possible and smile. He would cry when he saw sad children on TV shows far before children are supposed to develop empathy. As I learned more about autism, I learned that some of this was sensory seeking, as well as auditory processing issues. But I don’t care what label you put on it. This boy could LOVE.
Jaxson could not communicate verbally until he was three and a half. But he could get his point across. He once used a combination of sign language, gestures and PECS to communicate quite clearly that he wanted our cat Harley to eat a banana. There was no doubt that was what he wanted and when I held the banana up to Harley’s mouth he exploded in laughter and gave me the biggest hug. It was like he felt so wonderful that I understood him.
Not long after, we obtained an augmentative communication device for Jaxson and he took right to it. He was speaking on it the same day that we went to try it out. This device opened the door for him and in the blink of an eye he was using his words verbally. He started with Numbers and moved to the alphabet and soon it was words. What was great was that with the sentence structure of the Dynavox when he started talking it was sometimes in full sentences – “I want more juice, please.”
But the most amazing moment, I think, was walking in on him practicing the word “Mama.” He was saying it in a guttural tone and it seemed like it was important that he get it right first. Within days of that moment, he began to say “Mama” regularly and my heart just exploded.
All the experts we have dealt with have been amazed by Jaxson’s success. They did not see what I saw from the very beginning – a young fireball with his hands reaching out to grab his future and direct it where he wanted to go. I always knew that even when he could not speak our words, he most certainly could understand them. I am so happy that the world can now start to see what our hearts knew from the beginning, that these children are so much more than any label and that they have countless gifts to give the world.
Jaxson has brightened my world. While the challenges do often arise, I find that it is his spirit, love and perseverance that keep us moving forward. I have found my way to reach out. I need only reach out within my own home to find my chance to help and be helped by a child so extraordinary.
“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to email@example.com. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.