A few days ago, as I was reorganizing some drawers and closets, I ran across Alex’s baby book. I hadn’t looked at it for quite a while and had forgotten how carefully I had recorded the events of his first year, describing his first trips, Christmas, birthday, and other events in detail. During those first twelve months, Alex met his major developmental motor milestones within the normal range. According to my notes, Alex first turned over at 2 ½ months, sat up alone at seven months, began to crawl at 8 ½ months, and took his first step around his first birthday. What is more revealing, however, is to note the blanks I have left in his baby book: “Mother was first recognized at age___, “ Father was first recognized at age ___,” “That little hand first reached for ___ at age ___,” and “The very first word spoken was ___, and it was said at age ___.” Now I realize that these were all red flags pointing to autism, but I kept waiting, hoping to fill in the blanks.
I have heard from other mothers of children with autism that they, like me, could no longer write in their children’s baby books once they suspected something was wrong. After getting a diagnosis of autism, some put their baby books away, as I did, partly because we were too busy helping our children get better, but partly because we were overwhelmed by uncertainty as to what the future might hold for those babies. As I scanned through the baby book, I studied the detailed account of immunizations that we faithfully made certain Alex had, and I wonder if our lives would have been different had I not been so diligent. Having Alex vaccinated exposed him to the preservative, thimerosal, which was likely responsible for the mercury poisoning we discovered he had when we had him tested at age nine. We will probably never know how much damage those toxins might have had on his developing brain.
Near the end of the baby book, I found a brief narrative that I wrote a few years after Alex was diagnosed with autism summarizing what had transpired during those years I left spaces blank. I wrote the following explanation for what had happened to Alex: “At age four, Alex was diagnosed with hyperlexia, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by precocious reading skills. (Alex began reading at age three.) and delayed language and social skills. He began speech therapy at age four years, three months, and he began occupational therapy for delayed fine motor skills and sensory defensiveness at age four years, ten months.” The objectivity in this description belies the range of emotions I have felt through the years in dealing with autism. Had I known what I know now when I wrote that paragraph, I could have faced the future with far less fear and even greater hope. Whenever I consider what the future holds for Alex, I remember that he eventually learned to recognize Ed and me, reach for things he wanted, and speak thousands of words. While Alex masters skills on his own time table, God teaches us patience. With anticipation and faith, we wait for the next milestone to be met and celebrate how far he has already come.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6