By Brigitte Shipman | July 5, 2021. | Autism, Mother Guide, Is It A God Thing?
For the past 5 years, I have been called to write my personal story about what I refer to as life tsunamis and how I now live with joy through gratitude. I was led to write this book through conversations, random comments, and a very deep feeling inside of me.
I questioned this project over and over again with thoughts like these: I am not a writer. What will people think? I don’t know how to write a book. Then I just wrote and wrote and each word led to another word and here I am. I have completed my memoir.
This excerpt from my memoir is a segment of my autism tsunami.
Is It A God Thing? A True Story of Finding A Life Filled with Deep Love by Surviving Life’s Tsunamis Through Resilience and Gratitude
Joseph’s routines seemed to keep him calm and satisfied. For instance, at the grocery store every single time I took the same route by the balloons he loved, so that he could look at each one in the same order. This avoided a meltdown. If the order of the routine changed, even minutely, the result was a major tantrum and those dreaded looks of judgment from other shoppers.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, we missed other clues. Over holidays, Joseph often threw up unfamiliar foods like mashed potatoes or cooked vegetables. We finally caught on to the fact that certain foods, cooked a certain way, triggered him. We also noticed that loud noises often upset him. He frequently ran away from other children at the park. We just never put those clues together to figure out what was going on.
By about 2 1⁄2, Joseph was able to identify shapes, including an octagon and chisel 3D animals out of bars of soap with Play-Doh tools. However, he was still not speaking in sentences. Also of great concern was that he didn’t seem interested in other children or engaging with anyone for that matter. It was up to us to pull him into human interaction.
Joseph functioned much better when he had a strict daily routine. I was one of those moms who kept a journal to document his childhood for him and our future grandchildren. I knew he was advanced in so many areas. Yet I also knew something was not right with our beautiful son, who had a 60-word vocabulary at 6 months old, but at the age of 3, was not using words to communicate his most basic needs.
We decided to enroll Joseph in a local daycare center for a few hours a week, hoping that this experience would stimulate him to socialize with other children his age and that his language would improve. We chose a daycare center where I had worked in college, because I trusted them.
The first day I left him at daycare, I felt like I was abandoning my son in a strange land that spoke a different language. I had to keep reminding myself that I was only leaving him for a couple of hours to play with other children, and that the experience would be good for him. I decided to drive around the block so I could see what he did after I left, and as I turned the corner in anticipation of seeing him playing with the other kids, my heart sunk into the pit of my stomach. There stood Joseph, looking SO lost, in the exact place I had left him.
I felt like a giant fist had come and punched me in the gut. I sobbed and sobbed as I watched my sweet boy just standing there. Oh my God, was I doing the right thing? I instantly called Grady and told him what I had witnessed. He assured me that we were doing the right thing. We both knew that we had to introduce Joseph into the bigger world in which he would be participating.
I know through experience how hard it is to navigate this journey from the time you hear that your child is on the autism spectrum through each stage of their lives. I also know that you can live with joy.
Is it easy? No, it is not!
Begin with healing your heart. Make peace with your grief one moment at a time. I will be sharing pieces of my memoir with you in hopes that you will find some peace and wisdom to take with you on your journey.
Today begins with being kinder to yourself.
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