Autism: An Open Letter To Myself And Friends And Family [AUTISM AWARNESS DAY]

Cruz tha KANG!
Cruz tha KANG!

Autism. I don’t even like saying that word anymore. In fact, I hate it. I don’t want to read about it (anymore), see it, hear it, talk about it. That is how I feel. And, while I have a lot of positive going on in my life, there is a lot of heavy. There is no in between in my life at the moment. I am flying high, and crashing and burning at the same time.

March was an interesting month. I turned 34 and recently lost my grandpa. RIP Bodo.

Plus, we had our Easterseals telethon which raised $3 million! And, shortly after, I was given the word from Easterseals that my oldest son Cruz is level two in certain areas for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Yes, that face up above is another face of autism.

I am angry, sad, in denial, and a complete range of emotions on this. Which, reading the Autism Speaks 100-day kit is normal. But, I haven’t really shared this… until now.

This is me writing this down, so hopefully, I can find the comfort to get over the hump that has been put me in front of me. There are moments when I just want to stay in bed and not get up and go. But I have to. For him. For my family. I like to act like an emotional tough guy, but I am a little lost right now.

I knew something was different about Cruz. I figured maybe it was just a speech thing. But, it turned out to be more than that.

It’s just so bizarre. Other parents were in awe that Cruz could sing the national anthem at 2, had his ABC’s down before he turned 2, spells “Transformers” and “Chicago Blackhawks”, and can count to 100 already. But now, all of the moments in life that always stuck with me over his life are starting to make sense.

For instance, last year, I was at a Peoria Rivermen game with Cruz. I noticed all of the other kids at the game running around acting like maniacs (normal kid stuff), and I thought “wow, my kid is such a good boy!” Even an usher came up and commented on how well behaved he was. I will never forget that. Because it makes more sense why now.

And now that I am reading more and more about autism, the more everything is starting to make sense. Like the fact that he has never asked for anything for his birthday or Christmas, didn’t want to be anything for Halloween, and why he seemed oblivious to the fact that there were kids around him who want to play with him.

We have been working with a speech therapist to get things started, and I can already see improvements. I had a conversation with Cruz the other week. We were playing baseball, and he just started talking to me. His responses weren’t very long, but, it was more than just one sentence, and a response. It was a break through. While small, it was still a big moment for my heart.

I have a lot more questions then I have answers. And, I will now do more than ever to fight for people with developmental disabilities through Easterseals, Best Buddies, and more.

If you have made it this far, I am just typing what I feel. I don’t really have a final thought, or moment of clarity. This is me, just putting my thoughts out there, so I can read this and learn to accept the reality, and embrace the challenge to ensure my son (and others with autism) lives a successful, meaningful, happy life. This is also, my way of letting everyone in my life know… this is real.

Everything about the future I had envisioned wont change much, just a few alterations. You will still see us at Chiefs games this summer, and Cruz might come and pick at your nachos. He may not even acknowledge that you exist, but he knows you are there. Please be patient and understanding with him.

One thing he knows is love. So please shower him with your love, even if you don’t get it back. It’s there.

As I sit with my son, who is almost 4, I see a young man who struggles communicating. And, I have always chalked it up to “he’s still a toddler.” But the reality is setting in that if we don’t take proper action, it’s something that he could struggle with his whole life.

And with today being National Autism Awareness day, we hope you will open your hearts to those who struggle with autism and help support a better future for people with developmental disabilities. I know I will do everything until my last day on earth to make life better for my son Cruz and anyone who has autism, or an autistic child in their life.

For more information on Autism, check out some of these sites:

Autism Speaks

Autism Society

Autism Research Institute