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Hopes and Dreams Revised, Not Rejected

Courtesy of Dawn Neufeld

In the beginning, autism in our family was a beautiful, brown-eyed baby boy named William who was perfect in every way. My husband, an NFL tight end for the Buffalo Bills at the time, cradled Will in his arms hopeful for a future filled with football and first downs. We never imagined how much our hopes for Will would change because of autism. 

Before we had Will evaluated, autism in our family meant isolation, fear and sadness. Will couldn’t go to football games to see his dad play—he’d scream as if he was in pain every time the crowd cheered. Autism meant watching Will go up and down the same slide for an hour during gym class while the other kids engaged in circle time. Autism meant turning down social invitations because we were afraid something would set off inconsolable crying. Autism meant frequently calling Will’s name and hoping he would respond to the sound of my voice. Autism meant longing desperately to hear my son simply say “mommy.”

Since Will’s diagnosis, has taught us to adapt our hopes and appreciate the small things in life. While there have been no touchdowns or first downs, we’ve been able to celebrate so many other “firsts”: a first swing at a Miracle League baseball game or his first strike while bowling. 

Our perfect little guy surprises us every day. He can tell us how to say “oval” in Chinese, German and Japanese. He helps his classmates during geography lessons because he knows all the countries. Most importantly, Will loves to give me hugs and he tells me he loves me every single day.

Autism in our family means hope—hope for a future filled with so much more than football and first downs.

By Dawn Neufeld, Mom of Will, 8