Changing expectations

SL_autism02

A quiet baby who doesn’t respond to her name, a toddler who repeatedly lines up all of his toys or a child who has a meltdown in the store could all be showing signs of a developmental disorder.

These are symptoms that Scarlet Thompson knows all too well because her son, Cade, has autism.

“At first, it’s devastating,” says Thompson, assistant director of development at the Arc of Jefferson County, about hearing the diagnosis. “You go through denial and depression. Expectations for the child’s life change, and you’re not sure how it’s all going to turn out. There’s a period of mourning for what those expectations were for that child.”

One of the things that Thompson had to adjust to early on was how developmental milestones were different for children with autism, like how Cade, now 11, didn’t say “mama” until he was 4 years old. “I didn’t take that for granted,” Thompson says. “I longed to hear that word, and when I did, it was so sweet…”

Read more about the lives of families with autistic children in the March issue of Shelby Living. Find your copy here.