Enjoy the Good: A Mother’s Story | Organization for Autism Research

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Wendy Swenson is the mother of young adults and is proud to say she is now a grandmother too. She is currently enjoying life in Virginia with her son, Tim. She works as a school social worker and has a private practice as a licensed clinical social worker. You can reach her through her Web site: http://www.the5needs.comor e-mail: the5needs@gmail.com. She would enjoy hearing from you.

As a toddler, our adopted son, Tim, had been through a great deal before he came to us, including a traumatic delivery, several trips to the hospital, two foster homes, therapeutic outpatient treatment, and even special clinics.

After multiple visits to the doctor and when Tim was just age three, his doctor said, “Look, you have done your best, the boy will not walk, he will not talk, he will not feed himself; he will not be toilet trained and you need get a grip on this and get him placed in this treatment facility and get on with your life. You have two girls who need you; you need to get out of denial and move on. Take this number, and call to get the boy into that facility.”

Shocked, I looked at him and said, “What? What are you talking about?” Walking out of the doctor’s office in total disbelief, I hugged Tim closely. He would not go to any facility, not at that point for sure. My heart was torn, heavy, hurting, confused and I was weary, but determined. We would do our best and go from there. When we arrived home, my two daughters greeted Tim and me as always with smiles and joy to see their younger brother. Little did they know the grim outlook the doctor had just given to me or the ache and fear in my heart.

Tim began receiving services through the public school system in New Orleans; he had good teachers, received speech therapy and other related services. Tim learned to walk, talk, eat, take care of all his personal hygiene needs, and surprised people all the time by the things he could do. At that time, Tim had a diagnosis of Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). The autism diagnosis didn’t come until a few years later.

Autism was never far from our minds. We lived it. We constantly dealt with all the emotional battles that come with the diagnosis of autism and the realities this brings to a family, including the pain of seeing your child work so hard and struggle to understand the world. I cried many tears, silent and unseen, and also delighted in seeing the smallest steps forward, like the day Tim could finally take a bite of a sandwich. The joy such a little thing brought and the hope it stirred in my heart was wonderful.

Learning and Growing

Now, at nearly 30 years of age, Tim is still amazing us as he continues learning and growing. He is still a joy and delight to all of us.

Today, Tim and I live in Culpeper, Virginia. The supports we found here have helped Tim achieve things no one thought possible. He has two part-time jobs and has excellent reviews from his employers. Tim has taken some classes at community college; with support and accommodations, he excelled in each. We enjoy time together doing a variety of things and “just doing nothing” at home. Going out to do things with crowds is difficult, but we enjoy having family and friends come over and share life.

Tim knows what works for him and what does not. He is willing and able to stretch himself as needed, as is evident by the facts that he is employed, rides the bus, walks around, and maintains an incredible workout schedule. Tim has learned that working out helps him with his stress and anxiety; he will often run five to 12 miles on the treadmill.

As a parent, I am extremely proud of Tim. I admire him. He is my inspiration in many ways. Challenges? Sure! Pain? Sure! Disappointments? Sure! Tough days and stress…absolutely! But who does not have all that in some way to some degree? As a professional, I am grateful for all the services available here and enjoy helping others find their way and offer support on their journey. Life is indeed an adventure, and when we have special needs the adventure, turns into a different type of journey, one that includes many discoveries along the way.

Let me encourage you to hope, believe, and love. Accept what is and yet seek what can be.

Understand all you can about the differences you see in your child, acknowledge what is real, be honest, and let yourself hurt and heal.

There is always hope and things may be better than anyone can tell you now. We all are different.

We all need a hand. Professionals do their very best but they are not always right, any more than anyone else is. Use the wisdom professionals may offer, but realize they could be wrong too and you may be pleasantly surprised one day when your child outshines the limits and boundaries ascribed to him or her. Enjoy the good!


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