“He’s not like the other children. He’s …different.”
That’s all they kept hearing. It was always tough for Tom’s parents to take. How can the human mind accept your child to simply be different? In their eyes the word different simply did not coexist with their views on the one they held closest to their heart. Yet it was the sentence they’d heard so many times since his wondrous arrival. Parents would comment, family would suggest and, now, their long time doctor would confirm.
“I appreciate that, as Thomas’ parents, I must break this very gently to you.”
Of course, how could you break such news gently? It rang with the same attrition as the idea of a glass smashing softly, a notion that didn’t ring true regardless of how lightly you described it. Tom’s mother held him closer whilst he continued to play with the toy he’d brought along.
They expected the worst when they brought Tom along today. It was increasingly evident that Tom didn’t enjoy socially interacting with other children his age. Introverted and isolated, with the occasional mood swing, he didn’t not want to be part of a group. It worried his mother considerably. She would reach down and Tom would pull away. His lack of interest in joyful events and fun pastimes simply went through the glazed over look he’d shine back with his bright blue eyes. Everyone knew that Tom was a wonderful little boy, a boy who thrived on life and had so much to like for his young age, but it was evident that Tom was not like the other children around him in nursery.
“Thomas does appear to show signs of autism even at his young age.”
It’s incredible how, even when you expect news, it still continues to hit you like a steam train.
“I should make you aware that the way Thomas acts suggests his autism is at a reasonably mild level, but at a level that shouldn’t affect his day to day life.”
His day to day life was never different to anyone else no matter how others judged upon him. He was only young and yet, despite his isolation from interacting with those around him, he had a smile that attracted even the darkest times to transform into the brightest of days. Life made him smile even if he didn’t yet truly understand his condition. It served a reminder to his parents that even the smallest things in life are to be celebrated; a small truck on a play mat, a ball bouncing around a garden, a simple deep stare of glass blue eyes deep into the soul. They always saw him as beautiful, but it was these stares and these glances that confirmed that he could never be different.
“I want to prepare you for what may be a difficult upbringing for Tom. As his parents, I want you to know that there is so much support to ensure that Tom gets the best possible attention to help both he and yourselves.”
Tom’s mother pondered to herself what the word help truly meant. To help is to assist in times of need, she thought, to go the greater length of effort to succeed. Would there be times where she would cry herself to sleep in desperation, or seek a shoulder to rest on with her husband often further away than she’d like him to be? She turned towards him and immediately noticed the shimmering tear resting on his glands, his eyes already suggesting a slight tone of red. That shoulder was there for her to rest on for the time being.
Tom’s Dad spoke up.
The doctor turned his head towards Tom’s Dad.
“I only want to know one thing… only one thing.”
Lowering the glasses that lay on his frail-looking nose, the physician leant forward slightly and acknowledged his attention with a brief nod.
“Regardless of if my son is autistic, regardless of how it’ll affect his life, regardless…”, as he took a brief moment to sigh gently and collect himself, “regardless of everything, I only want to know… how much will it change him?”
The doctor sat back and pondered the question posed towards him. He’d heard it so often, almost a stock response to such a diagnosis he felt.
“Do you love your son?”
Tom’s Dad was taken aback suddenly by the question, something he wasn’t expecting and almost felt offended by if it weren’t for his kind nature. His eyes had shot open in shock and his response was almost territorial in it’s defence.
“Yes! Yes, of course I do! I love this boy more than anything in my life!”
There was an initial silence until the doctor moved back forward once again, looking once at Tom’s mother and back once again towards the father. A small smile rose amongst the aged creases amongst his cheeks.
“In the grand scheme of things, autism is just a word. A word cannot change a boy you’ve loved since the day you brought him into this world. It is something that is difficult and it is something that will transform as he grows into a wonderful young man, but it’s something he will achieve with the support of parents who will need to know that he will always be the same person. I want you to remember that, when you walk out of here, Thomas will still be the exact same boy you walked in with, and everywhere you go in life, regardless of how those may judge and assume without knowing, he will never be any different to what you didn’t know before today. He is your child, your Tom and nothing will ever change.”
They both looked down at Tom, smiling and proud.