How many parents of autistic children were blindsided? Had absolutely no idea it was coming? That was definitely us. This picture is a pretty typical one of Cara when she was very young. This was taken March of 2004 so she was about 8 months old. She was a smiley, cuddly little thing. Definitely not a warning sign of autism.
I often say there was a time when I was the parent of two typical children - and for a while I was. Up until Cara was 18 months old and we noticed her language development reverse.
I will be honest and admit that to this very day, it still hurts inside. I love Cara because she is Cara. Autism has nothing to do with my love for her. But I cannot deny our struggles and I cannot deny the pain that comes with those struggles. I also cannot deny my blessings. It is a constant tug of war. Looking at this picture and daring to think "what if?" and then reminding myself that there is no "what if?" Cara is Cara. There is no changing that - and I wouldn't want to, anyway.
And Cara still smiles - although she has her own version nowadays. She still laughs. And she still loves. She has taught us so very many lessons about life and what is important and what doesn't matter one whit.
Even though many people wouldn't see it, above is a picture of an autistic child. And below is also a picture of that same autistic child. Beautiful and unique.