By Stacy Nix | Published on March 22, 2021 | 15 Minute Read
The very first time I realized there was something set apart about Preston, was when I laid eyes on this black & white picture. The day after I gave birth, a kind hospital photographer came by, & asked us if we would like some photographs of our new family. Of course, we said, “yes”, & after a few minutes, she flipped her camera around to show me the image. My heart completely exploded — there was our perfect son, in all his glory! I had never seen a brand newborn baby open their eyes, & smile like that for the camera. He was fast asleep, & just decided to wake up. It was as if he knew he had an audience! That beautiful boy was already showing the world just how special he really was/is.
Fast forward, two years later, we were sitting in the pediatrician’s office, filling out an M-Chat form — the standard screening for autism, at the 2 year well-child visit. Upon completion, we were informed of a couple (small) red flags. However, these specific delays, in his development, didn’t really concern the doctor at that time. We were advised to refrain from jumping to any of our own conclusions, & simply monitor any developments over the coming months/years. But I didn’t have the luxury to put that on the back burner for later — I’m his mother, & it’s my job to pay attention. Professional advice is not always the best advice, & the thought of waiting around just didn’t sit well with me. If he really did need help, we needed to address it sooner than later. So, I quickly chose to ignore that procedural suggestion. Even though I was scared, I needed more clarity — I needed to do right by my son. From that day forward, our “normal” reality completely changed forever.
After that appointment, I went home, & began my research.
I read the books, plowed through the internet, observed my son, took lots of notes, & recorded whatever progress (or lack there-of) I could. This went on for awhile, & it started to sink in that something wasn’t typical. Nobody believed me — not even my husband. After all, Preston’s had amazing eye contact, from the very beginning, & he’s also extremely affectionate. Those two traits that he possesses have always baffled me, because, like most, I only ever thought about looking for the “common” stigmas attached with autism. Even though those particular traits caused me to wonder if I was wrong, my concerns always remained highlighted inside my brain.
When I would voice my worries, I would always get the usual feedback — “it’s just a phase”, or “boys develop slower than girls.” I would get mixtures of denial, ignorance, or helplessness from those around me. I felt alone, completely distressed. Why was no one seeing what I was seeing? At one point, I began feeling as if I was actually crazy or out of my mind. For a brief period, I could feel myself sliding down the mountain that I’d been climbing. But Preston helped push me back up onto my feet. My son kept “telling” me what I needed to hear. He kept showing me what I needed to see. And, in turn, God graciously gave me the strength to move forward — I could not have survived without His help.
During that painful season, I had to constantly remind myself that I was the one who spent the most time with Preston. As his mother, I knew him best. I had had an extensive background working with kids, & I wasn’t going to back down. I just didn’t care what anybody else was saying. For my son’s sake, I worked hard to tune out any opposition, & I started climbing, again, fighting off the urges to be agreeable.
During that painful season, I had to constantly remind myself that I was the one who spent the most time with Preston.
As his mother, I knew him best.
My husband would soon come around, as he just needed to work through it all on his own timeline. He is my best supporter, & I am so thankful for him. But I was angry with him for a very long time for doubting me. It was like an insult to my intelligence. Years later, he would finally admit to me that he was just scared, & didn’t want it to be true. That wasn’t new information to me, but I was relieved that he could finally name his struggle, so that we could move on, & battle the hard things, together.
I remember the day that I realized Preston wasn’t neurotypical. I just knew. Deep down, I actually knew for awhile, I think. But on that particular day, I was absolutely sure. And I sobbed on my kitchen floor, grieving for the life that I thought I would have. Most autism parents experience their grieving process after the diagnosis. For me, it was much different. I had mine in various spurts/phases, leading up to those internal confirmations. And then the rest of that process (intensely) followed during those long months, while we were on the wait list for an evaluation. I’d spend the remainder of the year, crying myself to sleep, & then falling apart off/on throughout the day.
That part of my life was such a blur, & at the same time, it’s impossible for me to forget about certain details from that painful year. Obviously, it was more than okay for me to feel the way that I did — it was part of the process! And there was no need to rush through it.
But the real truth is, it wasn’t the end of our world. It was just an opening to a different world. I won’t lie, I absolutely wished it all away back then. But there’s no way I would ask for that now. This is how it’s supposed to be — & I don’t have to like it, I just have to embrace it.
Looking back, I’m actually very grateful for how it all played out, because on diagnosis day, I was ready to move on, & get Preston the help that he needed. I was numb, but I wasn’t paralyzed with fresh sadness. And that helped pave the way for moving quickly into those early intervention stages.
After one year of (at-home) speech therapy, Preston started attending a local ECE preschool through our school district. He completed three years in that program, & I believe it to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made in our process of recovery.
From there, Preston moved onto Kindergarten. After a painful transition, some trial/error, & better qualified professionals, Preston finally landed into the classroom support setting, where his needs can be addressed up close, & fine tuned, for the hopeful transition into the mainstream setting. He is ahead for his age, & very verbal, but, some of the most crucial aspects of his recovery, stem from the interactions that he can only learn in public, & alongside his peers. Due to COVID-19, Preston is homeschooled, but once our schools open up for in-person learning, we hope that he will be able to continue working on his social challenges, in preparation for his future elementary years. Despite his varied challenges, Preston shines bright every single day, & is rapidly advancing. He is the sweetest definition of a beautiful anomaly, & it’s true what they say: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Currently in 2nd grade, Preston is 8 years old, & was also recently diagnosed with ADHD. He reads up to 3rd-4th grade material, writes beautiful penmanship, spells long words, & counts (multiple ways) to triple digits. He initiates apologies, displays great empathy, holds amazing eye contact, speaks regularly, & excels with all technology.
Preston enjoys his iPad, playing video games, listening to music, & riding his scooter. He is a super fan of anything Disney/Disneyland, Christmas, fireworks, & being around the people he loves. Some of his favorite activities include: car washes, Costco trips, playing outside, swimming in the backyard, kinetic sand, family dinners, typing, & writing. Preston has the biggest smile, the very best laugh, & a heart filled with joy. He’s a kisser, a hugger, a dancer, an adrenaline junkie, his daddy’s mini-me, & braver than I’ll ever be. Preston is absolute perfection — we’re better for knowing him, loving him, & being entrusted with him.
About the Author
Stacy Nix is a stay-at-home mother & wife.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, interior design, home improvements, DIY projects, cooking/baking, photography, traveling, reality tv, listening to podcasts, reading books, & writing. She is also an advocate for the special needs community, as her son has been diagnosed with autism & ADHD. Stacy hopes that her transparency will thoughtfully encourage other parents/caregivers along the way in their own journeys.