Looking through my garage, I found several large cardboard boxes. I thought I might put them to good use by making something creative out of them. Back when I was a kid a cardboard box was whatever the imagination could conjure.
If I could make a cardboard box into one thing, I think that I would create a time machine. Sure it would be tempting to go back in time and play the winning numbers of that obscenely large Powerball jackpot. I could warn Abraham Lincoln to skip the theater. I could even go back and not select Jamaal Charles with my first round pick of the 2011 fantasy draft.
But if I could go back in time to any point I wanted. I think I would go back to when we first suspected that Bianca was autistic and settle myself down.
So let me Crisco my love handles a little bit and try to squeeze into this cardboard box. They sure are smaller than I recall. Getting out of this thing should be fun. In all honesty though, I think it is easier for me to get into this box than a DeLorean. Let me draw a time dial here on the flap with my Sharpie… I will go back to February 1st, 2006. Bianca would have been 15 months old and the regression was kicking in hard. I was freaking out, but I knew what was going on. Bianca was already set to start therapy in the house… I remember it like it… was… just… yesterday…
(To make this easy I will refer to myself by dates… 06 (old me) and 12 (new me)
06: WOAH!!! Where the hell did you come from?!?!
12: I am the future you! I have come from the future... 2012 to be exact.
06: Wow… Note to self… I gotta keep up on my workout regimen.
12: Good luck with that…. How are you holding up?
06: Not good.
06: No. Really not f***ing good. I don’t know that I can handle autism.
12: It isn’t really yours to handle is it?
12: I mean Bianca is the one that has to handle it. You have to handle supporting her, loving her and doing all you can to give her the tools to succeed. You don’t think you can handle that?
06: Yes, but I am scared. What am I going to do? What do I do? I love her so much, I just want her to be able to reach her full potential. What is going to happen to Bianca? Is she going to get better? Am I doing the right thing? It is so overwhelming. I do not even know where to start.
12: As cliché as it may sound, you just have to take it step by step. Don’t look too far ahead. Deal with the NOW and that will help to make the rest fall into place. Seek out other autism families. Look online for other parents as well. Read some blogs. It won’t be easy, but you can do it.
06: You are from 2012, eh? So six years from now… How is Bianca? Is she talking? She is in first grade, right? Does she have friends? She doesn’t have to ride a little bus does she? I hope they don’t put her in special ed classes. I don’t want her to pick up bad habits from the other kids.
12: You know what… I am not going to tell you.
06: WHAT!?!? I would tell ME!!
12: No… no you wouldn’t. I don’t want to give you all the answers. I just came here to tell you that it will be OK. Discovering the answers yourself is going to allow you to learn more than you can imagine. You are going to be a changed man. A better man. You are going to have an appreciation for diversity that you can’t even fathom at the moment. You are going to be so accepting and get this… CHARITABLE. Yes… YOU. Charitable.
12: You will be motivated to get involved. You will actually inspire people. You will become a writer.
06: HAH! Yeah. Well, I dunno how I am gonna squeeze that in. I have a full schedule of Playstation planned.
12: Wait until November when the Playstation 3 comes out. You are going to be AMAZED. You think SOCOM is cool? You gotta see… wait. I am getting off track here. Look. What I came here to do, was to tell you that the road is going to be tough. Sometime it is going to be brutal. You are going to hurt in ways that no human being should be made to hurt. You will be an emotional wreck for a while, but you are going to come out the other side a better person. You are going to experience amazing things. You are going to have a level of appreciation of the little things… the things that are TRULY important. You are going to develop new routines and traditions. I can’t tell you that it is going to be a bed of roses, but I can tell you that it is not going to be anything that you can’t handle. You may not think that you can handle autism… I am here to tell you that you can. You will.
06: That is tough to imagine right now.
12: I know. That is why I came back to tell you… that, and also don’t ever draft a guy named Jamaal Charles. And 5, 16, 22, 23, 29… 6.
12: I gotta run now. They don’t make these cardboard boxes like they used to.
06: I can’t believe you fit into that thing.
12: DUDE! REALLY?!?... see ya in 6 years!
Sorry Lincoln… you are on your own.
Well… I hope that set me at ease. Strange. Nothing looks different back here in 2012. I knew there was no way I would remember those numbers. Oh well. I gotta check my record from last season and see if I at least took my fantasy football advice.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and you are reaching your breaking point. Do everybody a favor. Talk to somebody. Seek out support groups or get professional help. The autism community online is fantastic. Find an organization that you agree with and support them. Don’t try to take it on alone. I can’t promise you that your child is going to improve in this department or that… I can only tell you that it has been in my experience that the kid you see in front of you today is not going to be the kid you see in a year. It may be a challenge, and there may be obstacles, but those are placed before you not to stop you in your tracks. They are there to make everything you overcome that much sweeter.
Bianca wouldn’t be the little girl I know without autism, and I wouldn’t be the guy you know without it either.
If you like what you have seen and read, please take a few seconds and vote for Lou's Land as one of Babble's Top Autism Spectrum Blogs. (Though I think this site is all kinds of messed up)