I saw this this morning in the record-bee and thought it was really sweet:
In a few short weeks, my son will be graduating from high school, a momentous occasion for any family, but for my family it is perhaps a bit more. Our son, Ian, is autistic, and the road he has traveled to take those few steps across the stage to receive his diploma has been amazing.
When Ian was diagnosed with autism, there were few effective treatments, and what little was available was certainly not to be found in Lake County. We learned as we went, keeping what worked, and tossing out what didn't. Even in the darkest times, when his frustration at not being able to express himself boiled over into intense rages and even when those rages seemed uncontrollable, there was something there, a beautiful innocence, a spark deep in his dark soulful eyes.
We nurtured that spark, shielding it from the storms of his rage. As it grew, that spark kept us going, even through those times when loving Ian could be hard. And as the rages calmed, as Ian slowly learned to control the storms, the spark became a flame and he began to grow into the amazing person he is today.
Ian is innocent and loyal, genuine and open. He plays no games. What you get is what you get, and what you get from Ian is real and vital. He is focused and persistent (those of you who have seen one of his yo-yo shows have seen the results). He is also sweet and innocent, loving and kind. Along with its challenges, I absolutely believe that these qualities are the gifts that have come with his autism. If someone handed me a pill that would cure Ian's autism I wouldn't give it to him too much would be lost.
As hard as we've worked, and continue to work, to help Ian deal with his challenges, he has given me far more that I have ever given him.
Through Ian, I've seen both the good and the bad in the world around us. I've seen the brutal face of scorn and the wonder of kind words, the rush of impatience and the joy of encouragement, jaded indifference and complete acceptance.
Because of Ian, I know the tragic beauty of the death of a goldfish, the magic of Santa Claus and the simple pleasure of your favorite meal. I know the wonderful gift of laughter and the importance of tears. Through Ian I've learned to challenge what I can, accept what I can't and to be grateful for the good when it comes.
I remember dropping Ian off for his first day of kindergarten. We didn't yet know of his autism, but we were beginning to realize that something was wrong.
I will never forget the feeling of his hand slipping from mine as he walked into that strange new world. His hand is slipping away yet again, but this time the world he is entering is vast and full of people who don't understand the road he is on.
Every instinct I have as a father is to grab that hand and hold on, to keep my little boy safe from those who don't care, or worse still, from those who are indifferent. But I realize my little boy has grown into a man and that my role in his life has changed. I am now a companion on Ian's road and the choices of direction are his. I only hope that we've given him a good map.
I didn't know if you've already seen it, Stock-I was planning on telling you about it this morning.
A smile for your day. :D