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People ask us all the time when we are having another child. I know people are genuinely curious and don’t mean anything rude at all by asking us. I usually just say we haven’t decided yet, or sometimes I say I don’t know, and try to change the subject. Here is what I really want to say, but it takes too long and I might get too emotional saying it:
AJ is four and has autism. AJ does not communicate with us, even though he knows lots of words. AJ cannot dress himself. AJ is not potty trained and no matter how many different methods we have tried, he will not go on the toilet at this time. He is already close to 50 lbs and is too heavy for changing tables. He is also off the charts for height so he is actually the size of a six-year-old. AJ also suffers from constipation and is on medicine that makes him go more often when the dosage is correct, which we have to monitor along with what he eats to make sure he doesn’t get too backed up or goes too often. Sorry if that is too much information.
AJ is picky about breakfast and will not eat any kind of cereal, pancakes, waffles or eggs. He will eat fruit, some yogurts (have to be specific about what kind), and cereal bars. AJ has juice every morning because we have to hide his medicine in it. AJ is picky about lunch in that he wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every time, but you can substitute chicken nuggets on occasion. He is least picky about dinner and has experimented more with eating the same things we are.
AJ’s overall motor skills have always been advanced but his fine motor skills are still a little challenging. He uses a spoon but turns it so the concave side is on the top of his tongue, which means most things are spilled down his front. He is just starting to use a fork more regularly.
AJ sometimes does not sleep through the night. He only takes naps if it is late in the day and he is in the car, and those naps can disrupt his sleep more greatly. For the most part, he gets the minimum amount of sleep required, and when he is up, he is up. We joke he has two volumes: on and off. He often wakes up running and will run back and forth several times in the house.
AJ does not like movies and is particular about TV shows. He does not like to sit still for long and does not understand that he should sit or that there are consequences to not sitting. We cannot communicate to him that he has to sit in a situation, and the more we try to force it, the more he will fight it.
AJ does not put away toys or anything he gets out. He also does not play with many toys to begin with, but he will take business cards, pieces of paper, and other things he finds and scatter them around the house. We cannot force him to pay attention. We cannot force him to learn that this is how the rest of us work in the world.
AJ hates having his teeth brushed. It takes two of us, one holding his arms and legs while the other holds his head and brushes his teeth. AJ hates medicine the most. He will not take any pill form and most liquids he can detect even when hidden in juice. When AJ has been so sick as to require antibiotics, we have never been able to get more than a couple of doses in him and hope for the best. It’s worse than giving a dog medicine.
The blessings of AJ’s autism are these: he loves routine. He understands that bathtime comes before bed and he loves his bath. He is even trying to wash himself. He is generally a happy boy. He generally entertains himself. He can sit quietly by himself and look at books (but there is no way to suggest this to him when he is running all over the house at 5:30AM). Since this summer, he now is affectionate and will give hugs, even an occasional kiss. For the first time, he used a two-word combination with a verb last weekend. And this Halloween, he not only liked getting dressed up, but understood he needed to lift his pumpkin up for people to put candy in and twice said “Thank you,” afterwards.
But when someone asks me if we are going to have another baby, I want to know how in the world they would expect me to handle another child who gets up multiple times in the night, needs multiple diaper changes and feedings, with all that I shared above?
It is hard, exhausting work being a parent. It is harder for those of us that have a child with unique needs. But it is a blessing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because AJ is exactly who God created him to be, and I have become the person God intended me to be because of AJ.
I just don’t know how to answer the question.