Well, I'm back from Context 23, and I suppose I could write a post-con summary - but what would there be to say? Not much from the usual post-con briefing. Suffice to say all had a good time, readings were held, audiences enthralled, panels were skipped, I discovered Indian cuisine, and once again I was reaffirmed as to what an awesome publisher Shroud is and what awesome folks Tim Deal, Danny Evarts, Scott Carr, Rob Davies, Michelle Pendergrass, Rhonda Wilson, Steven Shrewsberry, Lon Prater, Maurice Broaddus, Johnny Morse, Mark Wholley and too many other people to name are.
So. The title. Today's blog. What I'm coming to find is that a lot of my blogging serves as a "pressure valve", in that here I blow off stream and stress when it hits me. A note: it's not necessary to respond to my more melancholic posts with the standard exhortations to "buck up" and all that. Hopefully, you all don't think I spend my time in the doldrums. Or whining. Basically, when something tweaks me the right...or wrong...way, I'm going to post and vent. That's all.
Zack's (my son, for newcomers) progress against his autism has been stunning. In little over a year, he's grown from a 1 word vocabulary to well over 200 words, and he can now initiate conversation, piece together sentences, and express emotion and affection. However, it's easy to forget an essential truth: he's autistic. The future is uncertain for everyone, but for him, even more so. I forget that, sometimes.
Today on the playground at Ross Park Zoo, three large teens joined us. They seemed far too old to be legitimately interested in swings and slides, so I felt suspicious at first. It wasn't long, however, before my suspicion faded as I noticed one of the trio's repetitive, jerky-like motions and robotic, halting and nonsensical speech. One of these teens had severe autism. He spoke clearly, but in sound bites he'd obviously heard elsewhere, and he kept requesting to "swim in pool" repetitively, though no pool lay in sight, anywhere.
I felt a cold chill.
Now, in stark comparison - and again, I MUST stress so many folks have it worse than us - our three year old Zack is actually much more advanced than this fifteen year old. However, every jerk of this boy's head and wave of his hands and burst of clear, coherent words that had no meaning at ALL in context stabbed me, deep inside. How many times has Zack displayed this behavior? How many times has HE regurgitated meaningless phrases from the shows he's watched or the things he's overheard?
Again. Right NOW Zack is actually more advanced than this boy, which literally HURTS me for this poor kid (the teen). I saw nothing in this young man's eyes. The world seemed a complete mystery to him, (and not the good kind of mystery, but an eternally unsolvable one) and even as his brothers/friends/caregivers kept gently encouraging him to play on the slides, he moved limply, gazed blankly and kept requesting to "swim in pool", an empty tone lingering in his voice.
What scares me is adolescence. Studies and experiences have shown that adolescence and puberty can hit autistic children hard. Puberty's hormonal storm can be challenging enough to an average child. For one with autism, it can hit like a genetic bomb. Though Zack's future is bright, I still worry.
I fear. I dread.
But I hope, too. Most of the time, that balances things out...but for one brief moment this afternoon, the scales tipped into darkness, and I saw what Zack might very well become.
We'll still love him forever, regardless; take care of him if that happens.
It sacred me. Deeply. Not much more to say....