See, in the beginning, and even though I had read hundreds and I mean hundreds of articles, I thought it was a passing thing. He’ll do a few months of speech/occupational therapy and he’ll be on his way, talking and playing with kids just like any normal kid. I mean, that’s what he was doing. He talked and he played. He didn’t grunt and do weird hand movements and he certainly didn’t avoid other kids and shut his ears at just about any sound or noise. I guess like any parent I didn’t want to accept that what I’m seeing, what I’m witnessing my child become is something that’s basically here to stay. Autism, unfortunately, does not go away. You just learn to deal with it. As one parent said you don’t make him/her live in our world, you have to live in their world. And that’s tough. So so tough because each day it’s something new. You see, now after two years my husband and I are at the point where we smile and just shrug oh well so what if he knocked down the cup with all the straws in the restaurant. Back then, we were mortified of people realizing that something is ‘wrong’ with our angel. And he is an angel, most days. The toughest part is accepting your present. I mean, I still watch videos of before-autism Panayioti playing and saying his little baby words and calling me, actually saying ‘mama’. For two years I hadn’t heard ‘mama’ until recently when he’s started calling to me again. My heart ached and sometimes I couldn’t even breathe just thinking about his future, our future. What that meant for us as a family. I would get panic attacks thinking how are we going to cope with a child who’s non-verbal. What if he gets lost? What if he needs help? When we brought Beba home from the hospital and I went to hug him and he pushed me away. I mean, really push me. Panayiotaki did not take to his little sister at all in the beginning, and actually the shrieking/siren thing started the first time he saw me breastfeeding his little sister.
One day, at around 2 Panayiotaki woke up and was in a bad mood. Terrible twos I thought. He didn’t smile at all and that was weird ’cause no other kid smiled as much as my little man. This was one happy kid. Then he started keeping his left hand at his side constantly, he just wouldn’t move it. Weird, I thought, so I took him to a chiropractor. Nothing wrong with his arm. Then he started swirling balls. But not just any type of swirl. This took some talent. Then of course came everything else. No eye contact, no response to his own name, and couldn’t even stand being at the playground with other kids even if he was secluded. The playground was our thing! If we weren’t home we were almost always at the playground. He loved hanging out with other little kids. One Sunday, a little girl threw a ball at him I remember and he just froze. No reaction whatsoever. I remember saying to the dad that he must be tired. And the dad of the little girl nodded in agreement but that was the turning point for me. My kid needed help.