That was in the later part of 1989.
A dark cloud poised over our heads like a thunder cloud.
We didn't realize that it would eventually become a real twister, tearing into the fabric of our family life, shattering the home with the force of a number five tornado.
Bit by bit, slice by slice, it torn away at the normalcy we had always known, tore us out of our comfort zone, and left us stunned and disillusioned.
First there was shock, then came the research followed by denial, then grief, and then acceptance.
Acceptance was the most devastating part of it all.
Devastating because acceptance should only come when there are no alternatives.
With this storm, as in every storm, the sun comes out and there is time to rebuild.
Our problem was that we had no tools to work with.
At least that is what we first believed.
Autism was not as prevalent as it is today.
No one seemed to have answers for us.
During the days of research the only answers we could come up with told us that our child's life was like a wasteland, destroyed, and useless.
Some reports indicated that she was retarded, others suggested that there were facilities to house children like her.
At first we allowed ourselves to doubt any recourse.
Finally, we accepted the fact that we would have to create our own tools for rebuilding and restructuring our family life.
This happened to our little girl when she was only fourteen months old.
We survived and met her needs as well as our own for about four years, just doing whatever we felt she needed while we searched our hearts and minds for new beginnings for a family that was shaken to the core.
Family life with autism is a complicated and frustrating lifetime event.
When this all began we felt alone, stranded without rescue.
Now, with 1 out of every 150 children being diagnosed on the spectrum, the chances of each of us having contact with an autistic person is extremely likely.
It not easy to detect upon sight or first glance.
These children are beautiful and their affect is likely to appear normal.
It is so important that when we pass a person in a grocery or department store, in our churches or just as we pass them on the street that we become aware that our world is in need of a smile, of acceptance, and love.
We are so fortunate that this young lady who will be twenty-one years old this spring was emotionally bewildered by the disrespect of only one person.
People treat her kindly and overlook the unusual little things she does.
By the time we reached pre-school stages we found comfort in numbers.
Others were facing the same kind of storms we were compelled to work through.
However, it was still a challenge for them and for us.
Our numbers grew, but programs, education, and financial assistance hadn't changed much.
Once we were determined not to be accepting, we planned our own programs.
We designed our own educational opportunities and we were on our way.
We rebuilt the family structure, wove new patterns in the fabric of our lives, and determined to never give up.
If there was even the slimmest chance of recovery, we would find it.
We have succeeded in bringing up a happy, well adjusted young lady because we accepted change.
If what we already knew did not work, we created something to replace it.
She is still autistic.
I suppose she will always be.
The important thing is that she is a kind, loving person, always striving to please, and she fits well into the family structure.
She can read, write, count, work at math and sentence structure.
She can talk and most important, she can look directly into your eyes and smile from the heart.
I write this to encourage parents of autistic children to start today to make changes, to rebuild, to structure the kind of environment that is needed when something new and dangerous makes its way into the home.
It may not be as devastating as it seems and happiness can again reign where impossibility seemed to permeate everything that surrounds the home life.
Hold on for a better outlook as you face the future.
These people are different, but worthy, intellectual people.
They just "march to the beat of a different drum".