She Changed Our Lives
(In the best way)
As I look back, Stephanie’s, unorthodox early years had opened my eyes, to autism. Certainly there were no horns blaring or fireworks going off to give me notice. It wasn’t anything that shouted, “Something is wrong,” no it came upon me with all the subtleness of a cooing child. I say that for example only, truth is, our daughter never fussed and was the perfect baby. Perfect baby…I learned was another sign of autism.
She was a quiet baby but that was not what made her perfect…she went about her business day after day, repeating the exact same actions again and again. I would go to work in the morning and she would have to come to me by the door and give me a kiss good-bye. When I returned that afternoon, she met me at that same door to give me a kiss.
She would then grab my hand and lead me down the long narrow hallway to her room at the other end of the house. We played briefly but then she went to her bookcase and brought out about ten books altogether. She opened two of them and gave one to me, so I began reading aloud. Stephanie set hers down and sat inside my comma shaped body lying on the floor, I continued to read. Soon, she was snuggling ever closer until I could no longer see the words or turn the pages. So began our norm and not a day or evening passed without a reading to my very special daughter.
After our read time had ended for the day and as I got busy with other things ie; cooking supper Stephanie would sit in the floor of the small living room and page by page go through the phone book. In a few days time (after the phone book had been processed) after our reading sessions, Stephanie began looking at the Bible with the same careful thought and always in the same position with crossed legs. Did I mention that she was two at the time?
I bought her a set of Tinker Toys and always she would do the same thing. She would stack them (she stacked things that wouldn’t allow for stacking) up high and then immediately knock them over. Then she repeated, not doing anything different – building and knocking down. I became aware of how Stephanie would give me the same books to read and how she would sit in the same position (which I loved). Every time I read the same book to her it was as if she’d never heard it before. I was incredulous at her desire to have the same thing read to her again and again?
I took her to the doctor for an exclusive reason…to have her checked for autism. Though Stephanie was a perfect baby, something didn’t seem right…was that the reason for the warning bells?
Dr. A. Bellisario, had given Stephanie the autism diagnosis after performing some tests and asking many questions right there in her office. She then gave me a phone number of people who deal with autism on a daily basis and told me to set up an appointment; I did so the following morning. They were closed for the day.
Following that diagnosis, her mother and I got into an argument, which was nothing new. See I felt that Stephanie was unique but when I mentioned that to her mother, Maria, there was no support. She instead countered with, “I don’t know if she has autism because if she does, then every kid in the Philippines has it.”
“That must include you,” I replied. Stephanie is on the spectrum and living with her I notice things that casual observers wouldn’t.
Our daughter didn’t point. She never played “pretend” but seemed enamored with other children. But that anticipation was never returned. In addition the anxiety she would go through with each new thing was unbelievable, to me. And I am speaking of the most basic things, nothing that one would guard against.
Stephanie could just be trying something new to eat or new boots and I cannot forget the traumatic experience that preparing her for bed seemed to cause, especially the brushing of teeth.
At age three Stephanie and I moved to a new place; Maria and I were divorcing and I thought it better to take Stephanie out of such a volatile living arrangement. Well her mom moved a thousand miles away after getting me falsely arrested.
At age four and in preschool her teacher told me that at reading time when she is supposed to read stories to the class…She had Stephanie do it.
“Once I even told a joke regarding the story but nobody got it, except Stephanie. She is amazing to comprehend the words at that young age,” something I already knew.
I had her in the church choir that she liked initially, then, something happened. I don’t know if it had anything to do with her early onset of puberty (at age eight) or if someone chastised her at choir. She no longer wanted to sing or draw attention to herself in any way.
She is a unique kid and to this day abhors television, but she is on her computer for hours.
I tried curbing her use of the computer at age nine so she would be on only two hours a day but this is what I was told, “Dad, I wouldn’t use it so much but you know the kids around here don’t play outside; you know I’d be out playing if they would be out there. They never are! They just sit and watch T.V. and eat all the time. At least with the computer my fingers and brain are getting exercised!” How could I argue with such logic?
And now, I must pick her up from school and then take her to her karate class this evening, so I will stop for now.