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The Heartbreaking Gratitude at Hearing “I Love You”

Courtesy of Cyd Lapour

The word autism conjures images of all of the stereotypical symptoms and challenges: the rocking, the humming, the meltdowns, the words that never come, or worse, words that arrive—and then vanish.

Our autism was, at first, more about what wasn't than what was. There was no rocking, no humming, no head banging. Neither were there words—any words. No "Mommy," no "Daddy," no baby talk or babbling. There were no typical play skills, no following directions, or even responding to the call of a name.

But then, as we began therapy, the missing behaviors inched out of their hiding places, one by one. First, there was good eye contact. Then speech. There was the joy of hearing "Mommy" for the first time, at more than 2 years old, and the heartbreaking gratitude at the words "I love you" by nearly 3. There was shock and celebration at the first sign of pretend play. “I’m a pirate!” never sounded more precious.

No one knows hard like the parent of an autistic child, but no one knows joy and pride in quite the same way, either.

Since receiving our son’s diagnosis, we’ve learned that the things that are matter so much more than the things that are not. Our autism has shown us the strength in family, the support of community, the value of patience, and the payoff of hard work.

Our autism is different today than it was last year, and even more different than the year before. Two years after the diagnosis, our baby boy defies expectations, has a mind like a steel trap, and slays the hearts of family, therapists, and preschool teachers alike.

This is love. This is our autism.

By Cyd Lapour, mom of Colin, 5, and Cole, 3