By the time my firstborn son George was two years old, I knew that something was wrong. George had a functional vocabulary of less than ten words and he was hardly doing any of the things listed in all of those developmental checklists. When I spoke to my family doctor about it, he gave me the standard line: "All children develop at different rates, and boys reach milestones later than girls."
After listening to this for a year, I had had enough. I parked myself in the doctor's office and told him I wasn't leaving until I had a referral for a developmental assessment. The doctor must have realized that I would have been quite prepared to sit in that chair gathering dust, because he gave me the referral with only a minimum of fuss.
Six weeks later, I sat in another doctor's office receiving the results of the assessment.
I had suspected this for a while, but hearing it actually said was a dreadful experience. Especially when the doctor followed it up with his prognosis for the future.
By all indications, George was going to have severe cognitive impairment for his whole life. His capacity for learning was very limited. He would probably never learn how to read or write, his behavioral issues might escalate to the point of endangering his little brother, and he was not likely to ever have a career or live independently.
The doctor pointed out that because George was not even pointing - a skill that most kids learned in infancy - he was not likely to develop more sophisticated ways of communicating, like speech and meaningful gestures.
For a couple of hours, I was numb with shock. And then, after a good solid crying bout, I found some resolve. I was not going to let the doctor tell me what kind of life my child was going to have. I was not going to let anybody tell me not to expect anything of my child. I was absolutely not going to give up on my child without even trying.
So what if George couldn't point? I would teach him.
The following day, I went to the bookstore and bought a book featuring the only thing George had ever shown any interest in: Bob the Builder. When I got home from work, I curled up with George on my bed, opened the book, and started reading. As George looked at the pictures, I gently said to him, "Point to Bob the Builder."
George didn't move, so I took his hand in mine, and guided his index finger to the picture of Bob the Builder.
"Show me Dizzy," I said. Same result from George, same reinforcement from me.
We went through all of the characters like this, with me naming them, George failing to point, and me manipulating his hand into the right shape and making him point.
The next night, we did it all over again.
And the night after that.
And the night after that, and after that, and after that.
There were nights when I didn't want to bother, when it felt as if I was wasting my time and accomplishing nothing. But I didn't give up. I kept telling myself that the only way George was guaranteed to not succeed would be if I stopped trying.
One night, eleven months after that first night with George and Bob the Builder, I sat down on my bed with child and book as usual. I was feeling drained and overwhelmed. I stifled a sigh and opened the book. Wearily, I said to George, "Show me Bob the Builder."
Automatically I started lifting my hand to help George point, but to my amazement, he started moving his hand himself. I hardly dared to breathe as George raised his hand. For a moment he just held it aloft and looked at it as if wondering what to do. Then, with agonizing slowness, he curled his little fingers into a fist, extended his index finger, and tentatively touched the picture of Bob the Builder.
To say that I cried a little would be like saying Noah and his ark got caught in a bit of rain. I sobbed as I hugged my child, who was probably wondering what all the fuss was about.
I jumped off the bed and ran to my husband, who looked a bit frightened by the sight of my mascara-streaked face.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked.
"George puh-puh-pointed!" I said, and ran back to the hero of the day.
That triumph turned out to be the first of many. Since that day, George has defied the doctor's predictions almost every day. Yes, he has autism, and yes, there are certain challenges he will live with all his life. But he is jam-packed with potential, and I am excited to see where his life will take him.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.