Our journey with Autism started a few months after Bailey was born, though the grieving process didn’t hit until she turned 3 years old.
Bailey was behind on the usual milestones, such as crawling, walking, and talking. There was always some concern, but she was happy and healthy. At age 3, we had her tested for a developmental disability through the school district we were living in at the time. They ran a series of tests, which involved observations of role play, free play, and asking her a series of questions. Hearing loss was ruled out immediately. She had no desire to role play, but only wanted to play with animals. No verbiage, only sounds and motions.
The word Autism was horrible for me, but it did pass through my mind that night. The next morning we went back to get her results, and there it was…..that emotional crash. For me, it was devastation. My negativity kicked in. She won’t EVER talk, never have any friends, and never tell me about her day. She would never be able to function on her own, much less live by herself as an adult. I made the serious mistake of googling Autism, which of course pulled up all of the most awful stories. No hope, no happy ending, and only emptiness and sadness. Bailey ran around and played while I cried in silence.
We made the decision to enroll her in school at age 3, by the suggestions of the counselors. That was another emotional setback for me, because I was not ready for her to be in school, away from me and my protective arms. I cried every morning after dropping her off, and did my best to put on a brave face for my son, who was 4 at the time.
Putting her in school was the best decision we made. She was immediately pulled into a classroom with 3 loving teachers who adored her. They were nurturing and gentle with her during this transition, yet they challenged her and she was forced to communicate in many different ways. They endured my window stalking and constant tears. They were an amazing support system, and I will ALWAYS be grateful to them.
Today My Bailey speaks in complete sentences. She has her quirks, but she is in the 2nd grade with other regular mainstream classmates. She has FRIENDS that want her to sit next to them and eat lunch with them. They wave to her while driving by. They are crazy about her.
The monumental day that I will never forget, and that I tell everyone who will stand to listen to me……
For two years, she would get off of the school bus, and I’d be waiting there. I would ask her, “how was your day, Bailey?” and she would only look at me. A blank look, as if she wanted to respond, but couldn’t. Seriously, I could FEEL the words on the tip of her tongue. It broke my heart every single day, but damnit…..I still asked her every single afternoon, “how was your day, Bailey?”
When she got off of the bus one day….I grabbed her backpack and hand, and asked with a sigh…..always ready for the pressing gloom. “How was your day, Bailey?”
“I played dinosaurs”. Kindergarten, age 5
“I lost my animal”. 1st grade, age 6
“Mrs. Sink wouldn’t let me go to the toy store.” 2nd grade, age 7
You can imagine how my heart has soared. Happy tears only, though, and that is all I wanted.