Of course the powers that be at Time magazine could not have known that their May 7, 2006, cover story on autism, Inside the Autistic Mind, would appear one week before Charlie's 9th birthday next Monday, May 15th.
Of course, it does not matter that any media outlet publishes a cover story on autism one week before Charlie turns nine, his last year of having his age in the single digits.
Of course, if I were my pregnant self of nine years ago, I would have read the Time magazine article closely. Because we subscribed to Time, courtesy of Jim's mother. Because I was on bedrest after having been diagnosed with preeclampsia in the last two weeks of my expecting Charlie.
Of course, I would have thought---let's be honest---"that's not going to be Charlie." That mother who had to make the The Most Difficult Decision of My Life and send her autistic son to a residential school, that was not going to be me.
Of course, I would love Charlie "whatever happened"---I had known this since the moment my OB-GYN talked to me about testing for Down's Syndrome and my immediate, deep-in-the-gut response was, "why would anyone abort?" (Meanwhile, Charlie did a back arch, a somersault, and hiccuped, inside me.)
Of course, the whatever moment happened very quickly in Charlie's young life, and the whatever took on a name. Autism.
Reading the Time article, Inside the Autistic Mind, was like experiencing an overview of Jim's and my seven--really nine, as we believe that Charlie was always autistic--years with autism:
- the latest brain research ("autism is increasingly seen as a pervasive problem with the way the brain is wired")
- the noting of "cure-of-the-day fads"
- facilitated communication (the article opens with 13-year-old Hannah typing "'I love Mom'")
- the Center for Disease Control's recently-released statistics on the incidence of autism in children today
- "most researchers believe autism arises from a combination of genetic vulnerabilities and environmental triggers"
- Sue Rubin, featured in the documentary Autism Is a World and animal behavior professor Temple Grandin
- educational models including ABA and DIR and residential schools
(All also covered by Jim in his February 24 Commonweal magazine review of psychology professor Laura Schreibman's The Science and Fiction of Autism, Strange New Worlds.)
Of course, nine years ago I had yet to see, to hear Charlie, trotting down the front porch and onto the bus, talking and plugging away at his academics at school and very interested in visiting the cafeteria used by the larger school (not special needs) downstairs with his teachers and classmates, running in to grab the hand of one of his Lovaas therapists (in a meeting for another child), saying "hi" when another child said "hi" to him, singing a Native American lullaby he has heard on his iPod, telling Jim and me "I need help! I need help" when he wanted a drink of water or could not locate his blanket before heading up to bed.
Almost nine years old, is Charlie. Almost nine years of life with autism, nine years of CDs new and broken and gone sticky from Charlie's fingers; seven years of doctors, specialists, therapists, Child Study Teams, experts, evaluators, Ph.D.'s, Ed.D'., OT's, SLP's, ABA, teachers, babysitters, lawyers. Of witness and of hope.
Would I do it all again?