Each of the possible indicators
drives through my heart as if I’m being shot by a nail gun: language
regression, not speaking by age two, repetitive motions, picky with
food, avoiding eye contact, in his own little world most of the time.
How could I have missed these glaring signs that my son could be
But clearly I did. When my wife
Sarah became concerned earlier this year about John not speaking, I
waved it off. “You know when he starts to speak it’ll be non-stop,”
or, “John’s probably still figuring out whether to speak English,
Mandarin, or Taiwanese. Give him some time.”
Same with his pickiness with food,
eating fruits and vegetables only—now what parent wouldn’t want that
for his child? The joke in the family was that John is probably Buddha
reincarnated. And toys—what kid doesn’t have his or her favorite
I was wrong. I was so wrong.
My wife and I have been good
parents, I would say; we’re certainly not parents who expect their
child to be the president or anything like that. I just want John to
grow up happy, have a normal life, have a normal social life, get
a girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever. Heck, he doesn’t even have to be
bilingual like I am. But this is no longer possible.
All my previous planning is no
longer applicable. You see, you just don’t think of such events
happening in your life, and your life completely changing in a snap. A
week ago I was ecstatic when my Ibanez EP7 Steve Vai Euphoria guitar
arrived. Today that instrument is worthless to me. What you want out of
life, your standards, your values, your expectations of your children—all
Funny, I was just recalling my
conversation with my buddy Maggie the other day about my plans to send
John to the leading International School in Shanghai (we currently live
in China) and she remarked, “Oh so you’re sending John to school
with these uber-rich children of foreign executives and government
diplomats, versus that other American school in Taiwan for rich kids and
children of diplomats. Sure that’s not spoiling the kid. Uh huh, yeah,
I blushed a little bit, but I was
also very proud. I was able to send him there. But this is no
Sarah had just given birth to our
second child Carla four months ago. Her career is as steady as a job can
be, being the executive assistant to the CEO of a large financial
conglomerate. Mine seems to be getting on the right track; sure it can
be better, but I have been working on this lead that might just have me
set for a long while.
Sarah has already resigned to take
care of John full-time, and it seems like I’ll have to as well—we
are going from dual income to single, with the expectation that the
medical expenses are going to skyrocket.
We will be uprooting ourselves
once again to the States after leaving there four years ago. There’s
no choice; the States are much more advanced in the field of pediatrics.
Besides, being “different” is still looked upon with a
discriminating eye in Asia. The States are much more tolerant,
accepting, and helpful towards autistic children.
Unlike diseases, autism is a
disorder. There is no cure. Standard length of treatment is two years,
Is this my fault? Is it my genes?
Karma? How do you digest and adjust to an event that changes your life
I don’t know if this sounds
pathetic, but to me John is still the most adorable kid. He has
character. He is my son.
RO THORTON currently resides in Los Angeles after having lived in three different cities around Asia and the U.S. throughout her life. She enjoys writing, but has only recently written on a more frequent basis since, like everyone else, she began blogging. She classifies herself as a “media junkie.” Friends would describe Ro
as random, weird (not weird funny, weird weird), loopy, crazy, a good friend to be a chauffeur when one’s totally wasted after a visit to Hooter’s, stubborn, down to earth, high maintenance, completely spaced out at times, intellectually curious, sardonic, and skeptical. But really, she’s quite optimistic.