I’ve been approached by several people with the idea that I should write a book about Autism, and I must admit that I’ve been tempted. What holds me back is that I feel unqualified. We’re still at the beginning of our journey, and I know that I have much to learn. That said, I could almost write an entire book on the process of diagnosing and accepting Autism. I could detail every aspect of how we have dealt with it in our lives, but I could never sum it up for the next person by doing so. In some ways the experience is much like grieving–everyone will handle it in their own way. My way of handling it was denial. It’s amazing what a mother can come up with to explain away a problem when it affects her child.

If you’ve been through the process of getting the Autism diagnosis, then you know that it’s a very complicated thing. We had several meetings with specialists over a two-year span, and the whole time I was still trying to push for a negative result. I believed my son was just very shy, very artistic, very unique. He is all of those things, but not without cause. His speech was what finally broke my illusion. For others I’m sure it’s something different.

Gabe is so distinctly Gabe to me that I often don’t see what others see. I understand his language, and I can usually predict his behaviors. It’s when I see strangers trying to  interact with him that I can see that something is different about him. While we were on our vacation we met a family on a playground. This was their conversation.

“Hi, what’s your name?” A nice woman approaches Gabe.


“Did you say elephant?”

Gabe nods and makes an impressive elephant sound.

“Wow, that sounded real. Honey, did you hear him?”

Husband walks over, smiling curiously. I’m sitting across the playground listening but not answering questions for Gabe. This is hard.

“How old are you, Elephant?”

“My name is Gabey.”

“Oh, I like that name. How old are you, Gabey?”


I’m excited now. He got that right!

“Oh, wow, six! What grade are you in?”

“I live in the trees.” He points up. The woman looks at me now, so I join them. Gabe has started making elephant noises again and is also kicking up pebbles in an unpleasant way. I dart across the playground.

“Gabe, don’t do that.” The woman is looking very curious but saying nothing.

“He has Austim,” I explain. “I was actually impressed with how well he answered your questions.”

“Oh, I thought maybe that was it.”

So she saw it. Such a brief moment with my child, but she saw it so quickly. If only I could have seen it so easily.

One of the hardest things to deal with has been the way some people respond to Gabe. Despite the fact that we have a formal diagnosis from a group of professionals, some people seem to think they know better. To them Gabe is a spoiled brat. I’ve learned that the best way for me to deal with these people is to stay away from them. I know my son. I know that even when his responses seem appropriate there is often a secret behind it. He memorizes responses to questions from television and from other people and then repeats them where he thinks they fit. These responses are usually delivered in the exact voice of the person or character he’s imitating. I know it because I know where it came from, and I’ve also heard him deliver the responses in the wrong place. Can anyone really compete with a mother’s knowledge regarding her own child?

I’ve decided that instead of trying to write a book I will devote part of my blog to my curious and wonderful adventures with my son. Please feel free to share your own adventures as well.


~ by Rachel McMahon on October 15, 2010.

9 Responses to “Autism”

  1. Rachel … from the first time I saw your photos of Gabe, I knew something was not quite right about him; but I didn’t know what it was. I even asked one of the others if they knew (afraid to ask you, directly, for fear you might be offended). I think it was because he never smiled in any of those photos.

    I’m in awe of how you are handling this journey with him; now that you are no longer in denial. I’ll look forward to updates. My Best Wishes coming your way & my friendship always! JaeL

  2. Rachel,
    I used to work for an innercity outreach ministry. We had a bible study for elerly people once a week and an lady would bring her 10 year old Grandson who was autistic almost every week. When I first met him I asked him where he lived. He replied ” In a house”. I had no idea he was autistic but first thought he was being a smart elic….I found it entertaining.
    As I got to know him, I found he was amused by colors. He would point at something and say the color and laugh….I would laugh with him. Then I would say a color and laugh…and he would laugh with me…this would go on and on…and I loved every minute of it. Whe he would see me the next week he would say “Red” and I would laugh with him…this would be the first thing he would say, every time he saw me. I did not understand why, but know that that was a way he connected with me, and his granmother was a happy and would tell her Grandson to come to talk to me.

  3. Thank you, JaeL. We’re definitely handling it better now. He was never an unhappy child, but he doesn’t fake his emotions, even for a picture. I think the camera annoyed him back then, but he loves it now.

    Shane, that’s interesting about the colors amusing him. I’ve never heard anything quite like that. These kids are just amazing.

  4. Rachel I love reading everything you write. I can totally feel everything you are feeling right through your words! Keep on keeping on for your family!

  5. Thank you, Sondra!

  6. They are amazing Rachel!

  7. I know exactly how you feel! Our son was diagnosed 6 months ago and is high functioning as well. It’s a tough journey, but they are such special and unique little ones! Thanks for sharing your story!

  8. Thanks, Christy!

  9. You are stronger than I

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