The second birthday party clichee goes something like this: the child, suspected of autism, is surrounded by a flurry of joy and merriment, but wants no part of it. Instead he is in his own world, isolated and alone. Mom is despondent with grief. The Autism Sourcebook, which I blogged about, opens with such a tale. Age 2 is generally when the symptoms of autism become evident, and a birthday party serves to bring out the typical/atypical contrast.
Sadly, this describes Brad's second birthday party to a tee, from my perspective anyway. I was mostly swallowing my tears, wondering if Brad would ever talk or return my affection.
Flashforward to last week, when Brad turned three. Yes, we have a label and it's the one I had dreaded just a year earlier. But with the realization came enlightenment and understanding. And Brad is doing so much better than I ever could have imagined. He's talking and showing affection. He charms us every day with his emerging personality, quirky as it is. We've come to appreciate his difference, not fear it. (Of course, that difference doesn't appear severe or disabling at this point.)
I just wish I knew a year ago what I know today.