He steps off the bus and rushes to the sidewalk, making one of his trademark vocal stims as he goes. I am behind him (he is really fast!) and catch up quickly, have to halt as he stops dead in his tracks. “What is it Justin?” I ask, and he turns, looks at me, really looks at me, and plants a big kiss on my mouth. Mission accomplished he turns away, marches quickly to the front door and waits for me to afford him access to our home.
I am thrilled. After the last two years, I will never ever take signs of affection for granted again.
In the fall of 2017 Justin developed tic disorder, which for him would be called Tourette’s if he spoke. It took one agonizing year, eight doctors, and as many diagnoses, to figure out what he had, and more importantly, to figure out how to treat it. I was so grateful someone finally figured it out, and over the course of the past year we have seen many of the skills he lost start to return.
His speech has suffered drastically, specifically his pronunciation, but since he primarily uses an iPad for communication I’ve been able to make my peace with this, as he truly only had a few words to begin with (juice remains, his favorite!). The aggression which particularly reared its ugly head two summers ago has all but disappeared, and he transitioned beautifully to a new teacher this summer and has for the most part had stellar behavior. The terrible body movements are manageable, do not seem to distress him anymore, and are few and far between compared to what he was doing in 2017.
Truly, the one deficit that remained was his lack of affection.
Trust me, I am grateful for the return of so many of these things, am even attempting to get him back on track with chores and self-help skills as best I can. I know we’re lucky we figured this out. But I will tell you I greatly missed the hugs and kisses, as reciprocal affection was a staple of our relationship since the moment he was born. Justin is not one to hug most people in his life- he pretty much reserves that right for his parents, and that’s about it. I will tell you I missed those embraces, I missed them greatly.
Now, slowly, affection is making a comeback too.
And I’m so grateful, because I love him and we share this common need for hugs, and because he is wonderful but life with him is often difficult, stretches me to my limits and beyond. The fact that he’s spontaneously planting a kiss on me once in a while shows how much he’s healed, demonstrates the core of who my son is- a loving soul.
I knew he was still in there. And he’s coming home.
For more on my family visit my blog at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com
Follow me on Facebook at Autism Mommy-Therapist