We did receive some pretty strange looks while making our tape for 4Paws. What kind of lunatic just stands there, videotaping their child screaming? If Riley has taught us anything, it's things may not always be as they seem:
-Were we uncaring parents, getting their jollies taping their distraught child?
-Were we parents who were willing to try anything, even going out on a limb, doing a lot of work and (gulp) asking for help to see if maybe, just maybe, a service dog might benefit their little girl?
Looking through some old home videos recently I did come across one of Riley having a meltdown. She was three years old. In the video, she is bloated with a huge belly. Dark circles are under her eyes. We hadn't yet heard of special diets. We hadn't heard of bio-med treatments. We'd barely heard of autism and certianly never heard of Asperger's.
On the tape, Riley was singing and then I don't know what set her off, but she began to shriek.
In the background Todd asks, "What's wrong?"
My icy voice can be heard saying, "Just another tantrum." Then, sarcastically I added, "Each one just as charming as the last."
Watching this, hearing my tone, I cringed. We'd been to see the big guns. Some of the top neuro folks in the country told me I was making a big deal about nothing. No help. No true diagnosis would come until she was 4. A small tired part of me was believing she was just a willful child. Thank God the larger part of me didn't buy it. She'd been screaming for a year and a half at that point. It would go on for another year before we found help.
If you are in a similar place, keep looking. Don't believe there is nothing you can do to help your child. Biomedical interventions work. Find the right professionals. Get a loan if you need to. Your child's behavior is trying to tell you something.
In the video, in the middle of her meltdown, with tears streaming down her face Riley cried,
"I want to be happy!"
At three years old, she knew this was not how it was supposed to be.
"I want to be happy!"
It struck me as profound.
That's all any of us want, when we have our little tantrums. When the toilet paper hasn't been replaced. When the guy in traffic cuts us off. When we just want to type without being interrupted, for once.
I don't claim to always be happy, but I do know we got our child on the right track by focusing more on where we were going and less on where we had been. More on those who could help. Less on the rat bastards (not that I'm bitter) who didn't.
I want to be happy.
Some would say I abandoned *the cause* when I stopped involving myself in the political battles that swirl around autism. But things aren't always as they seem. I actually think more people talk to me about autism now, than when I was all fired up. I am happy to share what's worked for Riley and my opinions on autism with anyone who asks. Only if they ask.
There were moments I used to think Riley's screaming was a curse I was going to have to bear for at least the next 20 years, and then God knows what would happen. Go ahead and judge me, I don't give a rip. You listen to your kid shriek for 2 1/2 years and get back to me, okay? It turns out this child and everything about her has been the opposite of a curse. She's been the most precious gift.