In honor of April being Autism Awareness Month we would like to highlight our dear friend Jacob. His mom was kind enough to share with us a little bit about her life with her amazing son to help us know more about raising a child with autism.
Jacob came into my life when I was 16 and he was 7. Now he is about to turn 16 and I can honestly say he changed my life. He has a crooked smile that will melt your heart, a wacky laugh that is contagious, and a quiet “I love Trisha” that he whispers so you can sometimes barely hear. His eyes are thoughtful and it is easy to wonder just what he is thinking about. Since the first time we met he’s had a piece of my heart and I am so excited to have his mom here to give us a peek into her life.
My son, Jacob, is 15 years old, and he has autism. On the autism spectrum he’s somewhere between moderate and severe. Autism affects every aspect of our lives. Jacob needs round-the-clock supervision. Nothing is ever easy or quick, and there is never a dull moment. A good sense of humor gets me through each day, and like most moms, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my child. Life with Jacob is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Thankfully, Jacob has no idea that he is not typical. He embraces each day looking for ways to have fun, because life to him is all about what will make him happy!
I wish people knew…how much I appreciate their smile when I take Jacob out in public. I would like to thank those that willingly share their smiles. It is not an easy task when we venture out into the big world. Before I even walk out the door of our house I have already thought through all the pitfalls of what could go wrong. Where could Jacob get lost? Where do we go to take a potty break (because he is old enough that I can’t take him into the women’s bathroom, but he still sometimes needs my help)? I ask myself whether I am up to all the staring that we will get if he freaks out and becomes aggressive. Or he starts yelling because he didn’t get his way. Or a noise occurs that is uncomfortable to his ears. I can’t forget the odd stares we will get because he is carrying around baby toys or canning rings. Do I have the endurance to give the constant reminder, “Hands on cart,” so that he doesn’t wander off? Or “Keep hands to self,” and “Personal space,” when he gets too close to other people?
When I help Jacob out of the car to go into a public place, I instantly go on hyper alert to do all I can to keep him safe, and not bother others. It seems like something always slips through my preparedness, and I am faced with the potential to be embarrassed over something. During one of these potentially embarrassing moments when I am almost ready to crawl under a rock, and I am questioning my sanity that we could successfully do this, I quickly look around to see how much attention has been drawn. Sometimes among the curious staring eyes, I see someone offer a tender smile. That smile gives me courage to carry on, and not let that particular moment bother me, and feel like the outing was a failure. That smile doesn’t cost the person anything. It doesn’t take any time, really. It actually takes very little effort, but that smile gives me the confidence I need, so that I can continue to help my son develop his social skills.
Thank you for sharing, Cindy. I will be sure to smile! 🙂 I have admired you from afar, for years! I have a nephew who is quite moderately autistic, as well. I have tended him several times through the years to give his parents a break and I am always completely exhausted afterwards, wondering how in the world they (you) do it! As I observe my brother, sister-in-law, and others like you, who give of themselves– round-the-clock– to their precious, autistic children, I see angels on earth. I also know that Jacob, like my nephew, are their families’ greatest blessings, too! You’re an amazing example, Cindy! Keep up the great work! Jacob is darling!
What a blessing you are to Jacob, as he is to you. That’s a sweet friendship, right there!
I’m glad to hear that a little smile is helpful. I never know if it’s better to just go about my business after a heads up moment; wondering if I notice then just look the other way will that be viewed as a respectful or offensive reaction? I think most people are just trying to figure out if there is a situation that requires intervention…and when we quickly figure out that things are ok we just move on. I’m always impressed by families faced with challenges who work it and live life. Thanks for your perspective.
Cindy Piper says
I have 2 autistic sons as well… (they are only slightly autistic.) I am so glad you wrote this and I found it on pinterest. I of course have a different list on what I wish people knew about Autism. Like Autism doesn’t mean our children are stupid or “retarted” they do understand what your telling them… even if they can’t communicate it back as well as other children would. Just because my son doesn’t smile doesn’t mean he’s not happy or finding something amusing. He has a high IQ and is very verbal… But when conversation is directed to him. He almost has to be cued in on whats funny… He will say something like… “I was thinking about it” too me. My oldest son had an easier time of finding employment. My youngest? He doesn’t “interview well”. That doesn’t mean he would not be a good worker… His IQ makes him more capable then most in some areas probably. The things he lacks? He could learn or adapt too. I have been so frustrated by friends and family alike over the years who have acted as if my children were stupid… and instead of speaking directly too my sons will speak to us as parents instead. I hope one day the public is educated. Your son is handsome and it sounds like your all doing great! Good job!
You and your son are a blessing in this difficult world.
Always remember that you are a great mother and please don’t be embarrassed when situations hand you and your son challenges. Some of us look the other way, hoping to ease your discomfort. Some of us give you a little nod, hoping to give you affirmation. Some of us smile, hoping to give you strength. All of us think you are strong!
Keeping doing what you’re doing, and if you see the smile you need, soak it in, and if you don’t see one, remember that God is always smiling on you and Jacob.
Thank you for writing this. I am a single mother of three. My oldest son who just turned 12 in April is considered mildly to moderately Autistic. It can be a challenge and I find myself getting very upset with others who stare at him with cold eyes, but those who are kind and smile and acknowledge his hellos make my day. Unfortunately his father refuses to accept that our son his Autistic so this is a road I travel on my own. I wish people would understand that being Autistic doesn’t mean that your broken or stupid. My son is amazingly artistic and imaginative which inspires me as I am a writer of fantasy novels. He is so intelligent and remembers things better than I do and oh is he funny. He has taught me so much and I am so blessed to be a mother of an Autistic child. Thank you again for writing this 🙂