Growing up is tough. Being a parent is much tougher. Being a parent of an autistic child is probably the toughest things I’ve ever had to experience in my life. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Well, yes things might be easier had I not had to experience it at all, but then I wouldn’t have learned as much in my short twenty-six years.
I became a mother very young, while I was pregnant they did an amniocentesis based on my age and my past. That was a terrible experience, but I wanted to make sure my baby was in good health. Luckily everything came back great. He was a perfectly normal XY baby. After I gave birth to Brenden in 1994, I counted his fingers and toes, watched him take his first steps, and all the other things normal babies do. You can imagine my surprise when he wasn’t talking very much. I thought at first maybe he was just a late starter. It happens. Then we had issues with Band-Aids, he would never let me put one on him, unless I could cover it up.
One day when he was two, he got a string stuck between his toes and he flipped out. I knew it wasn’t hurting him, so I couldn’t understand why he had a fit. I took him too the doctors to see why his behavior was so odd. That doctor was the first person to mention Autism to me. I had no clue what it was. I was open to finding out more about the disease and set him up for testing but my mother totally objected. She thought that I was just trying to find a reason for him to be “mentally retarded”. Those were her exact words. I was floored.
There are so many uneducated people out there. That was in 1996 when there weren’t that many cases out there, especially in the South. In 1997 Brenden was diagnosed with Autism. He was considered a “mild” case. I was grateful for that. I hear stories about others and my heart just breaks for them. Brenden leads a pretty normal life. He goes to regular schools, where he has a special teacher just for him. He is extremely intelligent when it comes to electronics. He was also known as the “movie buff” in our neighborhood. He could watch a movie one time and memorize it instantly. He would act out all the scenes and lines at three years old. Only you couldn’t understand him. He spoke “Brendenese”. I swear he had his own language.
Currently at age nine, he now speaks in full sentences. He is doing really good at spelling. He hates to write, its a huge chore. Our biggest task right now is doing everything we can to find out why this happened to him and the others and the cure. We did the testing for mercury when there was an outbreak in Washington State (he was born there). Now they are moving on to different ideas. Most importantly we are just supporting foundations out there like DFF and CAN anyway that we can. They truly help families out there like mine.
Thanks to Kevin and all of you sponsors out there, we really appreciate your help and support.
Amber Bennett (and Brenden)
Note: Amber is blogging for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation today in honor of her niece who was born with cancer. Please visit her site and support her!