“I’m ready!” yells Bobby, as he slides to the bottom. He turns to look up the slide.
It is a crisp March day. The sun is shining bright, but there is still a coolness to the air. Little mounds of snow still litter the ground from the last major snow storm from weeks before. I have dressed Declan and I sensibly for the weather in coats and pants. Bobby and Catelyn have chosen to ignore the cool air, and focus on the promise of the bright sun in their short sleeve shirts.
I have taken the kids to a local playground, where we spend most afternoons. Declan needs to be outside in the sun (it helps him sleep better at night), and is easier to manage in designated play areas. On our street at home, play time involves fixating on a neighbors mailbox or flag stand. And there is only one way to play – dismantle the object. These playgrounds offer large structures built with industrial materials too large for Declan’s crafty hands to take apart.
Bobby is the oldest and the biggest of the three kids. As the oldest his job is to brace the weight of his brother and sister who are coming down the slide train.
He is holding the side of the slide, looking back. Waiting for them to come down and hit his back. His smile is enormous in anticipation and he lets out a slight squeak.
Catelyn appears, slowly at first. Her feet are lifted so she gains momentum sliding on her bottom. She tucks her feet in and braces for impact with her brother. Cate, who lives on the wild side, is rambunctious in spirit and carefree of bodily harm, to her or her brother.
This brings a yelp from Bobby and a laugh from both. Catelyn turns and yells back up the slide, “Now it is your turn, Declan! Slide down the slide!”
A high-pitched laugh is heard around the back of the spiral slide. A squeal of delight. Bobby and Catelyn turn to look to see the up turned face of their younger brother coming down the slide. Declan’s smile wraps completely around his head. They brace, waiting excitedly for their slide train to be complete.
The children laugh at their game when Delcan lands and completes the children sandwich. They burst with sudden laughter, then resign themselves to a laugh that is so high, it is quiet and felt with closed eyes, only in their head.
Declan’s happiness pours out all over his sister. The game brought such joy. Hearing their laughs, feeling their smiles brings out Declan’s love and a hug forms.
Autism is there too, sitting on the slide, in the train. Autism is a part of our family. It goes with us everywhere we go.
Autism took language. Declan could not express joy or happiness with words when he went down the slide. Declan did with sound: laughter and squeals.
Autism did not take happiness. Our family is very happy. We work together. We play together. We help each other shine.
Autism did not take away Declan’s ability to see emotions. Declan sees everything, his favorite is happiness. Another person’s happiness polishes his heart and brings out his love.
There are a lot of faces of autism. A lot of happy ones, too.
When I look at this picture, I see my children happy, loving one another. Autism is just a part of our family. We are also happiness and love. Which is a delight that warms a mother’s heart.