I've decided to enroll the young man in horse back riding lessons for kids with disabilities. There is a place near our house that works exclusively with kids who have to learn to navigate their own disabilities and function the best that they can despite their disabilities. They take all kinds over there; muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, brain damage, physical and mental ailments, and autism. I've read many times that the benefits of hippotherapy can be great for these kinds of kids. They learn a new skill, get to do something fun, build self-confidence, better posture, better balance, better gross and fine motor skills, and a whole host of other positive benefits too. So I gathered my courage and I gave the place a call. And the conversation went something like this:
Me: "Hi, I'd like to enquire about enrolling my son in horse back riding lessons with you guys".
Vicki: "Great, tell me about your son"
Me: "Well, he has been expressing a real interest in learning to ride horses and as he has problems with his coordination, I thought this might be a really good fit for him"
Me: (with nervous laughter) "He sort of trips over his own feet and we would like it if he could develop his gross motor skills more"
Vicki: "What is his particular disability?"
And just like that, I dropped the "A" word. I dropped it casually, as if I were simply discussing a type of flower, or the weather. We discussed his condition like we were remarking on the sunny weather. And when I said the word, the dreaded "A" word, I waited for the sting. I waited for the pain that inevitably has come along with that word every.single.time I've said it or thought it since the diagnosis. The sense of injustice, of unfairness and self-pity that have attached themselves to that word as if they really belong there. And you know what? It didn't come. There was no pain, no sting, no self-pity. I felt no shame. Only pride. Pride in a child who is so special, who has come so far, and who I know will do great things with his life. I also felt excitement, almost giddy at the possibilities his young life holds and even those that will be afforded by his condition. There are indeed positive things associated with his autism. I'm starting to notice them. I was so excited for him to start horse back riding lessons and I didn't think once about if he could do it. I know he can do it.
There are so many "increased likelihoods" that attach themselves to a diagnosis of autism. There is an increased likelihood of depression, suicide, loneliness, etc. Just imagine a world where people are cruel to you or exclude you simply because they do not understand you and do not wish to try and you can fill in the blank with the mental conditions that can come along with that kind of rejection. So many of these "likelihoods" have been following me around, scaring me to death about his future, plunging me into my own depression and self-pity, and worst of all, making me feel helpless. It is only recently that I realized I actually have a choice.
I can choose to live in fear, or I can choose to live. I can choose to expect the worst, or I can choose to hope for the best. And you know what? He will be okay. His life will be good. I choose hope. I choose to live.