Wyatt’s pre-school suggests private speech lessons, which he begins 2 times a week, and I am grateful they don’t mention autism. When my next-door neighbor tells me she sees signs of autism in him a few weeks before he turns 3, I am furious. My call to the pediatrician allays my fears again, as he calls autism “latest trendy disorder of soccer moms’ kids.” But when he examines him a week later, he pronounces Wyatt “at least a year delayed.” Finally, we receive an evaluation from the school district and a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, or “autism light”). A few months later, the California State Regional Center diagnoses him with moderate autism. By now Wyatt is 4 and is placed in a pre-school where they blend typical children with children on the spectrum. I think my problems are over but Wyatt continues to get worse. I have no idea that the ratio of teachers to children provides a fraction of the behavior therapy he needs. I turn my home office into Autism Central, learning all I can, staggering into bed at night, telling my husband “If it’s this hard for us, what’s it like for the single mother with several kids, maybe 2 on the spectrum?”
During Wyatt’s third year, I kept an occasional diary, and found this entry:
Wyatt’s tantrums are getting worse. Violent tantrums leaving me sick with fear and confusion. I feel like a battered wife, I don’t want to admit that there’s a monster in the house. Not a grown man, but my two and half year old son. Like a domestic violence victim, I hide the telltale signs. I’ve been covering up the scratches and bite marks with make-up. He keeps breaking things but I sweep them away and throw them in the trash. My friend Dana told me that her son Michael behaved so badly between two and three that they nicknamed him “Damien”. One solution that snapped him out of his tantrums was squirting him in the face with a water bottle. It sounded cruel, but I was desperate.
I don’t remember what set Wyatt off the other day when I decided to use the water bottle. I squirted him in the face. He just became more enraged. He runs through the house, grabbing objects off tables, smashing them to the floor. Then he runs for the front door. He almost ran straight into a car a few weeks ago, so I was petrified and I grab him before he can open it and drag him across the room. He starts flailing his arms, pulling my hair and scratching my chest. His strength was astounding for such a small child. I pull him into my lap, get his hands under control then he head butts me and bites my shoulders. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” I scream, burning my lungs. Wyatt wails like a hurt animal. I wonder if the neighbors hear us. I’m hyperventilating, but I hold on to him. When he finally calms down, we’re soaked with water, tears, and blood. Scratch marks and bites cover my arms and chest, my shirt is torn. Wyatt had bitten his own arms till they bled. Why has my dream of having a baby to love, turned into such a nightmare? After he calmed down, I sat on the floor of the living room, crying, rocking Wyatt in my arms, and prayed. God, if you help me find out what this thing is that has taken my child and help him, I swear I will do anything you need me to do. Just give me the answers. The answer was autism.
Next: Answered Prayers