My son was born with blue eyes. Because I was a well-read expectant mom, I knew that many babies are born with blue eyes, but that they could turn another color – there are no guarantees. So I waited, willing to accept whatever eye color would finally emerge. I had been warned. And our lives were filled with blue, our favorite color, because this was the color of so many items we got, the baby boy color.
When my son was an infant he would cry unless he was moving. We just thought he was colicky. I spent many days and nights with him propped up in a little blue stroller as I rolled him up and down the hallway. Then I started using our blue baby sling, which would instantly calm him, as he was hugged by the fabric and close to me.
My son had a handful of words between one and two that, eventually, he lost. Despite all my reading on how to raise a child, nothing I read cautioned me that even a small loss of language was a serious issue. At one and a half, I expressed my worry to his doctor, and she dismissed my concerns by saying, “I don’t think it’s autism – he’s too social. He makes eye contact.” So we waited and worried and used all our beautiful blue things, gear designed for a typical childhood and read books designed for that as well. Then it became clear my son had autism – the books did not warn me about this – and it was not what I was expecting.
He was finally diagnosed at two and half. The little table his grandfather had made for him and painted a bright, shiny blue now became the table where a teacher from Early Childhood Special Education would help him to learn how to be in the world. It was where we squished blue Playdoh for the sensory experience. He was the type that had to be taught that it was okay to put his fingers in soft things. He never got the hang of making something with the clay, but he did squish away.
Blue was the color of the scooter we got – not just for fun but because his Occupational Therapist recommended it for his proprioceptive system. We used a Theraband to drag him around while he sat on the scooter and held on. We made the trek up and down the hallway over and over, always spinning around in our postage stamp size kitchen. It was play to him, but to us it was to help wake up his body.
We have a big blue armchair that was a favorite place to read together. But he didn’t always want a story read in the usual way. Sometimes I had to read really fast, and then go really slow. I did it because hearing his laughter at my speedy voice was delightful. And I needed the fun as much as he did.
When my son was able to tell me his favorite color in first grade, he chose blue. I was thrilled. Not because of the color, but because he could say the word. Months later when a friend of his from the autism room loudly declared his favorite color was yellow, my son changed his mind and switched to yellow. I was still thrilled by his new choice. It meant he was noticing another child and not just in his own world.
Just as I wish someone had said the word autism at one and a half when his few words were lost, I wish, too, that someone had also said, “You don’t know how he’ll grow, who he will be. It’s not just the autism that will change; he will change, and in changing he will become more himself.” No book prepared me for this. But wise teachers eventually did. I also figured out some of it on my own. He is not the boy I expected, but I accept him for who he is and who he is becoming.
I look at my son’s eyes now – they are a grey blue that sometimes turn a true blue. They are beautiful, just as they are, and I’m willing to accept that all this, too, may change.