Early one morning, you wake up to the sound of your little girl crying. You rush into her room, turn on the light and ask what’s wrong. She can’t talk. Not won’t talk. Can’t talk. You lift her in your arms, but she cries louder and pulls away. She begins to hit herself. Her pajamas feel like they are lined with coarse sand paper, the light hurts her eyes and every sound is amplified and excruciating. Since you don’t know what’s wrong, you don’t know how to help her.
She’s been fussy and hasn’t been talking much lately, but she’s never been like this! Your blood runs cold with fear. You pick her up to take her to the emergency room. She screams louder and her hands and feet begin to flail.
Something is horribly wrong! You drive as fast as you dare while your heart pounds and your mind races with images of what might happen.
You struggle to get your daughter out of the car. Once inside, you stand in line to check in.
I don’t know how to help her!
Oh, God, don’t let me drop her! You hold her tightly as you are pummeled with her hands and feet. Suddenly, she holds still and is quiet. You look at her and see she has a strange look on her face and is smacking her lips. Her face begins to turn red and she goes limp in your arms.
“Somebody help me!” You scream before you realize what you’re doing. You sink to the floor with your daughter on your lap. Her face is turning redder. You hear the sound of feet running.
“Let’s get her to a room,” a doctor says. You rush to a room, lay your precious little one on the bed and watch as the doctor assesses her. A nurse rushes in with the crash cart.
“Ma’am, you need to leave the room,” the doctor says.
A fog settles over your mind. You stare at the doctor as though you couldn’t have heard him right. Rivers begin to flow from your eyes as a nurse escorts you out the door. You can’t make yourself go any farther, so you stand right there. At the door.
The Door Opens
After eternity passes, the door opens and the doctor asks you to come in. Your legs and feet feel like lead as you step into the room you didn’t want to leave.
You see your daughter’s eyes are open, face a normal color and finally, you see her chest rising and falling in gentle rhythm. She can breathe again! Now you can breathe again. You lift her into a tight hug.
“Your daughter had a seizure. There’s no fever, so we’re not sure what caused it. This happens sometimes as a one-time occurrence with no rhyme or reason. If it happens more than once, that makes everything different and we’ll have to conduct some tests. For now, she is out of danger and you can take her home. Just keep her well-hydrated. I suggest you give her some Pedialyte.”
You can’t believe your ears. “That’s…that’s it? What if it happens again? I don’t know how to help her. What about the fact that she hasn’t been talking?”
“This is very likely a one-time occurrence. If it happens again, bring her back. As far as talking goes, some kids talk later than others.”
“She was able to talk, but stopped. I think something’s wrong.” You stare at the doctor as you wait for an answer.
“Some kids can be stubborn about talking. But if she has another seizure, bring her back,” the doctor says as he walks out the door.
Even Though You’re Not Convinced
Since the doctor said to give her Pediatlye, you decide to stop at the store on your way home even though you’re not convinced that’s the answer. Your mind is still trying to process everything while juggling your daughter on one hip and reach for a cart. You get your daughter situated in the cart and she starts crying again.
“Shhhhh…it’s okay. We’re getting something to help you feel better and then we’ll get you home.” She cries louder and her hands and feet begin flailing again. You rush down the aisle toward the Pedialyte. I’ve got to hurry and get this into her. I sure hope it works, but I can’t help thinking something else is wrong. You dodge her hands and feet.
“What is wrong with you? Can’t you see that child needs her butt beat?” You turn around and see a middle-aged woman staring at you in disgust. The other customers are also looking at you. Some sympathize, but don’t know how to help. Your face turns red and your eyes fill with tears in anger, sadness and humiliation. You put the Pedialyte in your cart and immediately head for the cash register.
Thus, begins the journey into autism for many parents.
Autism: Know How to Help
At this point, parents desperately need answers. They are overwhelmed with emotion as well as dealing with the dramatic changes in their lives. In addition, not only do they have to educate themselves, but they also have to educate everyone around them. I believe others would like to help but most of the time, don’t know how. So what can you do? I’m so glad you asked!
There are two things you can do to help:
- First, take the time to learn about autism. You may not know anyone right now who has it, but odds are…you will.
- Second and most importantly, be kind. When you see a child having a melt-down, don’t assume it’s a temper tantrum. It may be autism. Imagine what that would be like. A kind, compassionate smile or word would be a huge blessing.