Before I had Dominic, I had absolutely NO CLUE what Autism was. As I have mentioned before, my only frame of reference was the movie, Rain Man. I thought all children and adults with Autism lived in institutions and were non-verbal (and, if they did talk, it was to themselves). I also thought they were unable to show emotions. Wow, what a different "view" I have now. I think if I could put the past eight years since Dominic's diagnosis into two words, it would be, "eye-opening." I have learned that not all children and adults live in institutions. Some do, but a lot don't. Yes, there are children and adults that are non-verbal, but that doesn't mean they can't hear. Lauren told me once her thoughts on Autism. She said, "mom, every child is "in there," you just have to find a way to reach them." What a profound statement, wouldn't you say? I have had people ask me whether the "window has closed" for Dominic. The "window," meaning the "window of opportunity" which many parents of children with Autism, see as a limited amount of time into which to "pull" your child out of the "world of Autism." Well, I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you with almost complete certainty, Dominic's "window" is wide-open and will continue to stay that way. I advocate for him all the time. As a parent, whether your child has special needs or not, isn't that what we do? Okay, I have saved the best for last. Emotion. Yep, at one time, I thought all individuals with Autism were unable to show emotion or understand the feelings of others. While some children and adults do "fit" into that category, there are quite a few that don't, Dominic included. When my mother-in-law passed away back in January of 2011, it was a tough, tough time. The only way we could keep Dominic quiet during the funeral Mass was letting him play with a Game Boy. Yes, I know, some would consider it inappropriate, but at that time, it was my only option. Last week, Dominic said to me, "Grandma lives in Heaven, I miss her." Wow. You could have knocked me over with a feather. While he has said, "Grandma lives in Heaven," multiple times in the past few months, last week, was the first time he said that he "missed" her. You can't tell me that he doesn't remember that time.
What I have always thought about the way Dominic thinks, is this - he hears everything, but filters out what he doesn't want to hear and keeps the rest "filed" away for use at a later time. This past Saturday, when we were in church, there was a little baby crying. Without missing a beat, Dominic said, "baby is sad." I told him, "yes, the baby is sad." This morning, shortly before Dominic's bus came to pick him up for school, he came over to me and while my back was turned, he hit my arm. He was just playing around, but sometimes, he doesn't know his own strength and it startled me. I said, "ow, that hurt!!" The first thing out of Dominic's mouth was, "I'm so sorry, Mommy!" He got himself so upset that he started crying. He even said, "feeling sorry with himself." Dominic kept repeating, "I'm sorry," over and over again. I reassured him that I was okay and that I knew it was an accident. But, I also told him that he shouldn't hit. Dominic continues to "open" my eyes a little wider each day into his "world" and I wouldn't have it any other way!!