August 22 is a very poignant anniversary for our family. On that date seven years ago, my husband Vin and I heard, “your son has autism.” At the time, I was quite certain I would never be the same. In fact, there are days where I am unrecognizable to myself and people who knew me prior to this date.
I have found the strength within myself I had no idea I possessed. My husband and I talked openly about splitting and co-parenting as a way to wallow in our grief and not deal with each other. We choose, instead to fight for Eli and us. As a result of dealing with Autism, we developed an appreciation that we do have an amazingly strong marriage and family.
A few years ago someone asked me if I could change my life by taking autism away, would I? Without hesitation, I answered,”yes.” Now, I have to say, I believe ASD has played an integral role in my personal growth. I would not take it away as it could alter the sweet, loving son I have, he is quite simply perfection. I see that so clearly now.
I learned that my son possesses so many gifts. Autism does not define him any more than having hazel eyes does. It is just a part of what makes him who he is. He taught me not to judge others or myself. He taught me to have fun every day. That sweating the stupid stuff is truly sweating the stupid stuff.
I now consider myself a true, full-fledged adult. I have no tolerance for people who show prejudice toward those who are different, be it a disability, sexual preference or religion.
August 22 is an anniversary. Not a typical one and not a bad one. A day to mark when a doctor confirmed what we knew, our son was different. Seven years ago, Eli was unable to sustain a conversation, engage in play, or to sit in school. He was unable to dress himself or understand what it meant to have a baby brother join his family (four days after his diagnosis).
Eli is thriving in a mainstreamed fourth-grade public class. He is an amazingly loving son, brother, and friend. When asked on the first day of school, what he wanted to be when he grew up he said, “I want to be a Daddy.” He loves his little brother more than any mom could hope.
We now look as this date as a gift, to mark how far we have come, all of us.
I am so proud to be your Mommy, Eli. Thank you for pushing me to be a better Mom, and person every day.
By: Shari Bauman Grande
Shari Bauman Grande, MSW, is an Executive Recruiter specializing in placement of M.D.s in small biotech companies. Additionally, Shari works as an Autism Advocate and consultant to Lineagen, Inc. and other organizations specializing in making a difference in the lives of those living with Autism Spectrum Disorders.