I was one of those people. I felt like there were so many clues along the way during Ryan's development. I believed if I followed the clues, they would lead me to all the answers I had been searching for, but, the clues did not help me solve the puzzle. Just when I thought I had autism figured out, some new behavior would come our way and it was like someone took my nearly completed puzzle and chucked it piece by piece on the floor, taking me right back to the beginning.
You have to understand that I believed by finding these clues and inserting them into the puzzle, I would solve the mystery on how to reach my son. I clung to every clue like a lifeline. One of the first mysteries that was solved and attributed to autism after Ryan's diagnosis, was the absence of The W Questions.
Most toddlers and preschoolers have very inquisitive minds. It seems like no matter what you tell them, they always respond with..."Why?". The sky is blue. Why? Carrots are good for you. Why? Mommy needs wine. Why? And if it wasn't why, their curious little minds wanted to know "what". "What does a tiger say?" "What is your name?" "What is the moon made of?"
I remember this phase with Kyle, Ryan's older brother, and I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes those W questions got so annoying I would finally answer him with a "because". Who knew that three years later I would beg, borrow and steal for one "Why?" or "What?" to pass over Ryan's lips.
Ryan never asked many W questions. That's not to say he wasn't curious or inquisitive about his world, but, autism made communicating his curiousity different. Instead of asking "What is this playground made of?", Ryan would just lick the ladder to the slide instead (and I would have a germ phobic heart attack). Instead of asking what makes a car go, Ryan would place his hand on the car to feel the vibrations. Ryan tried to make sense of the world too, but, he just didn't express his curiosity in the form of W questions, but boy did the W questions plague me.
Why doesn't he ask why? Why doesn't he look at me? Why doesn't he talk to me? Why is his licking the sliding board? Why is he feeling the bathroom stall walls? What does this behavior mean? What does that behavior mean? What caused his autism? What age did his autism appear? Why does he have autism? I guess I just needed someone to look at me and say, "because" while handing me a glass of red wine.
If I could give any newly diagnosed parents who are trying so desperately to find the clues, to complete the puzzle and solve the mystery advice it would consist of two things:
1. Love your present child now without worrying too much about future him/her.
2. Stop obsessing over the W questions and focus on the H question. How?
How can I best support him? How can I help his overloaded sensory system adjust to new senses? How can I show him my love? How can I assure him he is loved? How can I find different ways to help him communicate? How can I make others see he is "different, not less"? How can I make him stop licking the sliding board (yeah, cause that's just way too germy)?
Once you find the answers to the H question, the W questions no longer seem quite as important. Why and What will weigh heavily on your mind for awhile, but, one thing is for sure, without answering How you will never find the answers to Why or What.
Autism may be a tough puzzle to crack, but, loving your child for exactly who they are, is really no mystery at all.