We asked our listeners to share their personal stories on Autism. Gary Martinez shared this below and really touched our hearts.

Autism. Now that’s a word up until this year was a made up word. Like ADD or ADHD! It was nothing that ever concerned me. Never experienced it. So I never thought to educate myself about it.

Spring of 2009 when I was told my child was going to be a boy! WOW! The feeling was overwhelming. All I could see was little league games, boy scouts, football tryouts, fishing and camping trips with just me and my little man! The future held endless possibilities!

My son was born into this world and all seemed normal! Then came regression instead of progression. He would interact, but then he stopped. He would try to start talking, the he stopped. He would respond to his name, the he stopped. He would sleep through the night, then he stopped. He would return affection, then he would stop.

As a daddy, your probably the last person in this world who wants to admit there child is different.  You look at other children and see how they react to their parents, peers, and friends. You look at your own child and you try so hard to find those very things in them.

Coming to terms with Autism has been the hardest challenge of my life.

First came Denial! Very strong word. You think at any time he is just going to snap out it. You tell yourself “hey, my family doesn’t have a history of this” These are things you read about in books that happen to other people. But when the denial breaks…………………….

Second came Anger! And wow was I angry. Hardly recognized the man who started back in the mirror at me. At that moment, you feel like life tore the pages of your life away. Cause there are so many unknowns.  You cry out “What about my hopes and my dreams for my child” Growing up you learn life isn’t fair, but it’s hard at times to come to grips when you have to accept that life can be cruel.

Third came Acceptance! I call this having my eyes opened. Prior to this, I felt like I was all alone. My family had come together in support of this situation and I just could not wrap my head around this. I read books and reached out to people who were going through this. And it’s scary! Scary because I had to accept that my son and his situation were special only to him. All the knowledge in the world and scientific studies providing very little comfort and insight.

Raising my child has had its set of problems. Erratic sleeping pattern, difficult potty training, nutrition, nonverbal skills, uncontrollable fits. He and I get frustrated. He wants a something or something is wrong, he can’t tell me and he cries because he can’t reach out to me. As a dad, it tears you up when you can do nothing but guess! In many ways, he’s a newborn baby. His level of independence is so low.

I’ve never heard  my son call me dad, I’ve never heard him say his prayers, I’ve never heard him say I love you. And worst yet, I wonder if he even knows that I am dad, if he even knows that his dad loves him?? He’s very affectionate, and I thank my heavenly father for that. He loves to give hugs, especially to the ladies!

He will turn five years old very soon. Through this experience the number one lesson has been patience! Because it’s really all I have. All I can do at times is just be physically there, to love him, when he is at his worst and he is at his best.

He has been a great example to me of strength. Most people in this world get to make the choice to be part of this world or not. To face the world or just hide. But not him, he wakes up every day and interacts with a world at times he can’t comprehend or communicate with. A world filled with people who don’t understand what Autism is. A world with people who can be cruel and unkind. He knows nothing of politics or race. All he knows is love. The hug he gives a total stranger and I get to watch as he brings a smile to their face.

The road ahead of us holds many unknowns. But I can’t concern myself with that any longer. I’ve had to let go of the past as much as I have had to let the future go. Today is all that matters. All I can do is be patient and love him. Love this wonderful gift and appreciate the opportunity my heavenly father gave me to raise a child. To show my son love and he in turns shows others. Today is all that matters!!!