Our son Logan turned sixteen just the other day. On his birthday, we gathered the family together and went to a used car lot. We looked around, found a car at a reasonable price and purchased it that day. I’m sure many families have done something similar on their child’s sixteenth birthday.
Except the car was not for Logan. Not only will Logan not own a car, it is very unlikely that he will ever get his driver’s license.
Logan has autism and is on the severe end of the spectrum. Not only could we not go car shopping with Logan, we didn’t even see him on his birthday. He lives in a group home with his sister (who also has autism) and is over an hour away. Sickness among our other children did not allow us to visit him.
The earliest years of Logan’s diagnosis were not too bad as the difference between him and his peers was not wide. But with each year, the differences became much greater. By the time Logan was fourteen years old, his behaviours were enough that he went into a group home.
After almost a decade and a half of autism, we have generally come to terms with this part of our life. However, there are certain milestones such as this birthday and that stir up our emotions.
Friends on Facebook who had children around the same time as we did have been post pictures of their children learning to drive. While I’m happy for them, it is a reminder that autism has changed the way life looks for us. Autism can mean a real loss of hopes and dreams and there needs to be room for grieving.
Having said that, autism does not rob us of joy. We have a great relationship with Logan and we are very proud of him. We have just had to readjust how we define “normal.”
Normal now means that we enjoy our regular visits with our son. He comes running into our home with a big smile and anticipation of taking over control of our television remote. He raids our supply of apples and bananas, consuming amounts that are hard to believe.
We can celebrate our relationship with our son but we still need the freedom to feel the pain in these milestone moments.