Our son Tyler was diagnosed with autism in 2002 at about age 3. We were actually better prepared than most. My wife and I have four college degrees between us and she was a special education teacher when he was born. We did everything “right” according to the literature: early intervention, speech, OT, 30-40 hours of home-based ABA, etc. We visited with specialists from Atlanta, Nashville and Boston. We tried DAN! doctors, vitamins, supplements, the GFCF diet and even a faith healer. We prayed fervently, joined two University studies and have helped start two support groups.
Tyler is nearly 12 now, still non-verbal, not potty-trained, seldom sleeps, can’t tell you his name (at least not in a way that anyone other than us can understand) and spends the majority of his time flapping, clapping, verbalizing and stimming on one thing or another. He lives with us but goes to a special school in another town (25 miles away). He has no interest in playing with his siblings, can’t make friends and has never said “I love you” without prompting. The reality of autism is that it is a thief striking at the very heart of what it means to be a person.
The “autism is curable” subculture in our community gives hope to many, but also leaves some of us feeling like utter failures. Popular books on autism suggest that autism can be overcome if the parents simply work hard enough. Unfortunately for many of us, enough is never enough – at least never enough for a cure.
There is no “happy ending” to our story – at least not in the traditional sense. We love Tyler and he is a blessing to us and our three typical children. We consider him a gift, but he is also getting bigger, stronger and is sometimes easily and unexpectedly agitated. Raising him over the last 12 years has tested and strengthened our faith, added depth to our marriage, and provided richness to our family life. Our daily struggles aren’t something we would have ever chosen, but my wife, children and I different people (hopefully better people) as a result of our struggles.
What I appreciate about the book, “One of Us: A Family’s Life with Autism,” is that it reflects the reality of life for many of us. We need more voices like the Osteen’s (and ours) in the discussion. There is encouragement in knowing that we are not alone in this battle.