Many years ago I received the news that a good friend’s
granddaughter was diagnosed with Autism. I felt so sad for her. Like many
people back then, my main reference of Autism was the movie Rain Man. My heart
broke at the thought that my friend would not able to connect with her
beautiful little granddaughter the way I had with mine. I prayed for them.
Fast forward ten years-
My husband and I had a very rough year dealing with the loss
of a business, then our home, and eventually almost everything we’d worked for.
It was a sign of the times. Luckily, all of our children were adults and making
it on their own. Many people were fighting the same battle trying to hold on to
the lives they had worked so hard to build. Eventually the stress took its
toll, and my husband ended up with health issues that put him in and out of the
emergency room every weekend for nine months straight. After one visit he
contracted a blood infection and I was terrified that I might lose him.
We made the difficult decision to move out if state and try
to start over. We hoped it would give him time to heal and we could rebuild our
lives. The hardest part of that was leaving the kids and our four
grandkids. They were the joy in our
lives. Our oldest daughter had two beautiful children that we saw often. My son
and daughter in law already had one beautiful daughter, and had just been
blessed with another angelic looking little girl. We had just begun to bond
with the baby when we had to move, she was about 8 months old at the time.
Once we were settled in our new home state. The kids came
out to visit a few times and it seemed everything was moving forward
One evening my son called and as we caught up on news he
mentioned that his wife was concerned with the way the baby was developing. We
had just seen her a few weeks before and she seemed fine, although she was
sleepy a lot of the time.
I told him she was probably just having a hard time with
teething and not to worry. “If the doctor thinks she’s fine then I’m sure she
is.” I said, thinking that my daughter in law was just a worried new mom. After
all, I’d raised my own four kids and had a hand in raising many more. None of
the baby’s behaviors seemed all that out of the ordinary to me.
He came to visit again when she was around 18 months. They
were in the process getting her on lists to have her tested, at her mother’s
It wasn’t long after that, that they called and told us they
had a diagnosis. She had Autism. Honestly, I didn’t believe it. I thought the doctors
were mistaken and that she would be fine with a little extra love and time to
‘catch up’. I don’t remember exactly
what I said to my son, but it was something like, okay, well, that doesn’t
change how much we love her.
Then I did what I always do when faced with the unknown. I
throw myself into researching everything I can about the subject. The information wasn’t as readily available
as it now. Most of what I found on the internet was about the symptoms of ASD,
or medical papers full of jargon written by doctors. None of them contained
what I was looking for, and that was hope of recovery. I finally stumbled upon
a couple of websites that offered understanding and hope. I learned that I
didn’t need to spend all my time hoping and praying for her recovery, not that
I ever gave up, but more importantly, I learned that accepting her autism as a
part of which she is, was key. If that
was what my baby granddaughter needed from me then I would embrace her and her
autism with all the love and support I could muster.
Living in another state, I had already felt the effects of
missing a big part of my grandchildren’s lives. In the few short years we were
away they were growing and changing and we were becoming strangers. On top of
that, our youngest daughter and her husband were expecting their first
baby. I begged my husband to bring me
back to be with my babies. When that didn’t work, I begged God to get me back home. He and I had
been having a lot of conversations.
The following year circumstances changed and we moved back
home. We were able to resume seeing the grandkids and building our relationships
with them. As the years pass I continue to learn as much about Autism as I can.
I read books, talk to people, read blogs and give support where I can.
What about my little granddaughter? She’s seven years old
now, and brings so much joy into our lives. She is brave beyond anything I can
imagine. She keeps us all on or toes (no pun intended) with her sometimes
sweet, sometimes fiery personality. She’s an amazing little girl and I could not be more proud of her. I am so blessed that I get to be her grandma.
I have great respect for the Autism community. That is one
of the reasons I created the character of Samantha. As I wrote, I let Sam tell
me who she was, and she pretty much took over the story of the Sister Sleuths and
I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. A portion of the proceeds from this book will be Donated to raise Autism Awareness.
Sam and Sandy's play list
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