Being proud of the small things……..

My 13 year old son has Autism. Having a child with special needs makes you learn to appreciate the smallest of accomplishments. My son Alex plays in a basketball league with typical peers, meaning they do not have Autism. Last week Alex got his first basket during a game and don’t get me wrong it was no small thing, it was HUGE! I was proud of him for having the courage to put himself out there, I was proud of his teammates for passing him the ball and working as a team to make it happen, I was proud of his coach for believing in him and last but not least I was proud of the opposing team for not aggressively blocking his shot. In that moment it wasn’t about who was winning or losing. It was about being part of Alex’s accomplishment, it was a collective display of empathy from the whole room. A parent came up to me after the game and said “I got your son’s basket on video, I am so happy I got to witness something so great!”
What does this have to do with the little things? Maybe I’m a little ahead of myself. Alex was a perfect baby, he seemed to cry a lot at times but I was assured it was colic. As time went on I quickly realized it was not colic, as at 2 years old the slightest thing would throw him into tantrums of great proportions that included screaming, banging his head on the floor, scratching himself and even hitting me. By the time he was 3 he added escaping from our home on a regular basis, as well as climbing on top of our refrigerator, entertainment center and kitchen counters. I went for years running on no sleep to make sure he did not hurt himself all the while wondering why he was so violent, why he didn’t talk, why he wouldn’t eat food, at one point I was watching a tv show about people possessed and I quite honestly felt that was a reasonable explanation for what was going on with my son, clearly an exorcism was in order, I thought. Luckily the next day my 5 year old had a check up with the pediatrician and while we were there the pediatrician got to see one of these outbursts first hand. A small child in the next exam room over began screaming which triggered Alex screaming, writhing on the floor as if he himself were in pain and as I sat on the floor holding my hand between his head and the floor so he wouldn’t hurt himself I just waited for it to pass (did I mention I was 8 months pregnant?). After Alex calmed down and I sat on the floor my own hair a wreck at this point I noticed the pediatrician looking at me with her mouth agape “does he ALWAYS DO THAT?” As I got up I just nonchalantly said “yeah”. The pediatrician started to examine Alex and soon referred him to a developmental pediatrician where he was diagnosed with Autism. Some people would be devastated but I was relieved that at least now I knew what I was dealing with. Fast forward to now, 10 years later, after many therapies, counseling and lots of love Alex is at a place where I never dreamed he would be when he was 3. I can not take all the credit because Alex works hard to try to achieve the things he wants, sometimes it can be hard but he doesn’t give up. When Alex started this team in December he didn’t have the coordination to dribble the ball, now I can’t stop him. He couldn’t get the ball high enough to hit the rim let alone make a basket, now he sinks at least 50% of his shots during practice. Alex didn’t come out of the gates knowing how to play basketball, it was a bunch of small victories and they all helped lead up to one great emotionally wonderful moment. Making that first basket during his game will be something he will always be proud of and it’s just one of the many things I’m proud of.