To My Son,
Growing up I didn’t have many struggles with basic development or school, but my brother, your uncle, did. I remember thinking he was such a great brother and would find myself wondering why something as simple as putting pen to paper was so difficult for him. Then I realized that, despite his struggles in school, his high energy and love of life were what made him funny, clever, fast witted, and likeable; no one seemed to see his struggles as flaws. He always seemed to look at the bright side of things and overall passed that down to me. His actions and personality showed me what it is to really embrace and love the person you are, no matter what your differences are or types of challenges you may face. It is with that mindset I was able to really understand the true meaning of love. I hope that I do my best by you, as your mommy, and pass this understanding of life on to help you with all that you may face in yours.
You are exactly who you are supposed to be. The day you were born, we knew you were special and going to bring such adventure into our lives. Although it hasn't been the exact adventure we had planned, it is an adventure full of life, love, and happiness; what more could I want? You were two and a half years old when we were told that you had a severe language delay. You were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder that day, and I'll always remember it so clearly, because that is the day that changed our lives as parents. Daddy and I were told that you were not where you should be, in regard to language development, and that you would require speech therapy and Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy to help you get where you need to be. The fear and worry became very surreal, but I am your mommy and I told myself "you must stay strong and remind Caden that he is everything God wanted him to be. This is merely a small bump in his road, not a tragic end to his beautiful life".
We have had our highs and lows along the way, but hearing you finally say words and seeing you express your thoughts through sign language is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. You were so excited when you realized we were finally understanding the messages you were trying to send us!! The glimmering light we saw in your eyes when we were able to respond to what you needed is a memory I will hold onto forever! Life doesn’t always go as you plan, but it’s those unexpected pieces that make you, you.
Being different is okay. You may feel different or weird, but remember that different and weird can be good and make you who you are. I want you to know that you are loved and appreciated for all that you bring into our lives, and into this world. No two people are the same; embrace who you are. The differences between you and the people in your life may be difficult to understand or adapt to at times, but embracing the skills and tools you have been given will make your life just as wonderful as the next person's.
I know the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) machine is not something you wish to need, but this machine helps you to show who the world you are. It helps you to communicate with the people you know and love. With the AAC, you have been given a way to express yourself; that is something we are all proud of, and I hope we succeed at showing you that it is something worth being proud of!. When your uncle Jeremy was in school, he was unable to put his thoughts to paper, therefore unable to perform the tasks required in his classes. He was assigned a stenographer to put his thoughts into writing and he felt like the odd kid in class. At first he was really embarrassed, but once he embraced this "gift", he was able to discover some amusement in it. It became very easy for him to make friends and poke fun at his struggles, rather than let those struggles define him. That is all I ask of you, my sweet little Caden. Find the fun in life, in your differences, and embrace who you are!
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. You are so gifted, Caden. From the very beginning of your life, you were showing your true talents. You hit each and every milestone early. You rolled over in four months, walked in eight and a half months, and learned to balance and climb on things, things that many three year olds would not even have had the bravery to attempt, at just one and a half years old. Your love of life is infectious. You are full of affection, love, and smiles! One simply can’t resist being happy and full of joy when in your presence. Your embraces of hugs, smiles, cuddles, and kisses are enough to brighten even the darkest of days. The look of happiness is always on your face in a giant, dimple-filled grin. The good Lord pairing that contagious smile with those big, sparkling blue eyes made you such a heartbreaker and loveable kid. We are all amazed at the short amount of time it takes you to grasp the tasks asked of you. Things like picking out letters of the alphabet, identifying animals, choosing specific object from groups of objects, and requesting for more of an activity were a breeze for you. More often than not, it only takes one time of showing or telling you something and you have it mastered. Your teachers and therapist have always raved about how quickly you learn and how smart you are. Those are the things you need to focus on. At this particular point in your life, you need a machine and therapist to help you express your thoughts, wants, and needs, but you don’t need their help in expressing who you are or what you can do; you do that all on your own.
Don't let the assumptions of others become the realities of you. During your lifetime, there will be plenty of people who do not understand you and many who simply feel sad for you, but there is nothing to be sad about. You, like everyone, have quirks. Not everyone will understand your quirks, but that's okay, because they are what make you "our Caden". Adaptation and embracement of your differences is what makes life enjoyable and fun filled. At times you will be judged, and that is okay. Just remember, those who judge you or your differences are just afraid of what they don't know or understand. You have the ability to influence perceptions and the world's perspective on what it is to truly be different and what it means to love who you are. I have been blessed with the wonderful gift of being your mother and taking this journey with you. It has not always been an easy road for you, nor me, but I know we have become, and will continue to be, better people from our experiences and differences. Be who you are and never let yourself down. Through this journey I have discovered what it means to truly love selflessly and unbiased. You have taught me what it means to truly love who you are without seeing flaws, because they are not flaws, nor imperfections; they are perfection.