Something I often hear from people when they meet Mateo are things like:
~ I probably wouldn’t have known he was autistic unless you told me.
~ He doesn’t seem that different from most kids his age
I know people are trying to be polite or maybe they don’t notice his differences. He has moments running around preschool where you can’t tell there is any difference between him and his normally developing friends. But as he gets older to me the differences become much more apparent. Most four year olds can tell you what they want for breakfast, what their favorite color is, what they want for their birthday. But Mateo can’t.
It hit me hard the other day. I received a Mother’s Day card that he brought home from school. It said all of his favorite things that I do for him. Like give him hugs, make him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was all the things that I know he likes, and his Tutors know that he likes. But it didn’t come from his mouth- it wasn’t words he said- it was what the Tutors told the Teacher to write down. And my heart broke. I thought of how the other kids had all said what they loved about their Mom. I have the same thing on my fridge that Maya did when she was 4. It says she likes it when I take her shopping at Macys and when I read Fancy Nancy to her.
But then I think of how far he has come and how he is saying more all the time.
My highlight of the past weekend was when some of the ladies got together at a friends house and Mateo was playing was a little girl who is a year younger than him the entire time. The bounced on the trampoline and played in the sandbox. He had a great time, running around in their underwear playing in the little pool.
Mateo has allergies and my friend Kristen that he doesn’t know well noticed he needed his nose wiped.
She came over to him and said to him “You need your nose wiped.”
And he said “Did It”
She said “Well looks like you need some help, can I do it?”
Mateo replied “Ok” and let her.
He had a complete conversation with her! She ran over and told me and we were both so excited, it was exciting to share that moment. This would never have been possible months ago.
I would say Autism is a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows, one step forward and a few steps back. But the key for me- is seeing the positives, and although he can’t tell me his favorite color or what his favorite activity at school was that day- he can show me with those big hugs and long cuddles and that amazing smile and laugh that lights up a room.