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The Silence Does Me In

The Silence Does Me In

Every morning I wake up to their sounds. Quick little footsteps, gleeful screeching, the steady bang-bang-bang of D’Angelo’s feet on the wall… always noises.

The slurping of Apple Jacks and chocolate milk, the crashing of toy cars, the steady hum of Xander’s scripted words. My voice blends with theirs as I race around, pausing only long enough to trade a shirt for last night’s jammies or to play referee.

Dressing accomplished and a few train tracks under our belt I herd the squealing boys into the yard.

“Nice jumping!”
“Good gentle playing!”
“Please don’t eat the ants!”

And the running, and the jumping, and the exploring take over our lives. My kids stay firmly planted in their activities, engrossed in the details of their yard, but in my imagination we are on a safari or on an airplane or somewhere warm and sunny and not clouded by my thoughts.

With chalk covered hands and popsicle bribes my children walk back in the house in time for lunch. Xander wants a “cheese sannich no cheese” which is a plain hamburger bun, and the baby seems to be satisfied with his snack of ants and sand.
I can usually convince him to eat a little something else too.


Damien Angelo’s eyelids grow heavy and I persuade him to lay down for a nap. The tempo slows, our energy quiets and sometimes Xander may snuggle down for a sleep too.

Today both kids slept. And when I tucked their tiny little bodies into their beds I realized that they took their sounds, and my distractions, with them.

I am a happy person. I mean, I try.

But today? Today when the house was still and quiet I sat at our desk and cried.

Today as I tried again and again to get the baby to look at me, to communicate, to engage with us I saw that I needed to stop kidding myself. I have been saying for months that we believe he has a speech delay and possibly more, but I kept following it by saying that the autistic traits he was showing were learned from his brother. This afternoon I was standing in the dining room talking to Xander’s occupational therapist when D’Angelo took his cereal out of the bowl and made a perfectly straight line on the table ledge. It was like a giant exclamation mark directed at me.

When I first suspected Xander had autism it seemed like the natural thing to do was to reach out and write about it. So why am I so scared now? I have known for over a week that the Glenrose (the hospital that handles all autism diagnoses) wants to see Damien. We started the official referral process that day.

But every time I think about it it breaks my heart. To have one child with autism is a fluke, but to have two must be some indication of how much I suck as a parent. NOT because being autistic makes my children “bad” or “broken”, but because it comes with so many challenges that no child should have to live with.

All we want as parents, no matter who we are, is for our children to live happy and healthy lives. Of course children with autism can achieve this, but sometimes I’m not sure if I am strong enough to ¬†help the two of them. I know that overall we are very lucky. When I can see their little faces and hear their little sounds I am reminded of all the good we have surrounding us and am rejuvenated.
But it’s the silence that does me in.


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6 Responses to “The Silence Does Me In”

  1. Victoria
    July 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    You don’t suck as a parent. You’re a great mom, proactive and willing to fight for everything your boys need.

  2. July 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Aw Dawn. I’m sure this (the collective “this”) is the hardest thing ever. I think these boys are yours precisely because you are the perfect mom for them – you don’t suck, you’re the right fit. Think of everything you’ve learned to help Xan. It will all help D’Angelo too. To be honest, I am in awe of you.

  3. Colleen
    July 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Hugs Dawn. I have been thinking of you. You are doing your best by those boys – they are so lucky to have such a wonderful and proactive family.

  4. July 17, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Hugs, Dawn. I’m so glad you are getting Glenrose involved. Here’s the thing. Having two kids on the spectrum can’t possibly mean YOU suck as a parent, because it would mean I suck as a parent, and if I suck, then you suck, and …. it just gets circular after that. This week, as Caroline and Sam have been trading it back and forth, Scott and I have been completely overwhelmed. I want a vacation to somewhere with margaritas and salt water STAT. I have said this so many times that my darling little echolaliacs (that’s a technical term) will answer the question, “where do you want to go on vacation” with “someplace where there are drinks with little umbrellas in them and you can’t go out without sunblock under 150 SPF”.

    My personal opinion is that the more we understand about autism, the better our kids’ lives will be. They are growing up in an era of research and understanding. Therapists aren’t trying to mold them into perfect little neurotypical people these days but are, instead, trying to help them show the world what amazing people they already are.

    Sam’s delayed speech was one of the first big signs that he too was on the spectrum. So I get it about the silence doing you in. But remember, too, that this time, you’re going in armed with some knowledge of the process. Will it be the same for D’Angelo as for Xander? Not on your life. But you’ll have an idea of the process, and you’ll know what services various individuals provide, and you won’t have to learn a brand new alphabet soup.

    Hugs. Breathe deep. I’m sending zen thoughts from down South, where I just crunched my fucking foot on a perfect line of legos that Sam will be HORRIFIED to find I have MOVED when he wakes up.

  5. July 18, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    Many hugs, Dawn.

  6. July 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    PS — I love the way “Please don’t eat the ants” is right in there with “Nice jumping” and “Good gentle playing” like it’s “yeah, you know, just one of those things parents say”

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