My son Keanu was born on a hot August day in 2002, I guess the only words I can describe becoming a mother for the first time are "It feels like your heart is going to explode with love, like you never even knew what love was before the moment you lay eyes on your baby."
I want to remind myself and others of this feeling because it can quickly get clouded by fear, shock and grief when a parent is handed an autism diagnosis.
Fast forward to today, eight years later. Keanu is a brave, innocent, sweet little soul - despite the odds, and the tremendous work it takes him to navigate through our chaotic world.
He is also blessed to have his sister, Jasmine, who loves him unconditionally and sees only her brother.
I urge parents to choose to see the best of this life we were given, as hard as it is.
I vow to always give my children the best that life has to offer.
I never imagined myself a fighter, advocate or researcher, but here I am, all of those things, for the love of my son. He has made me a different person, to him I am grateful.
My favorite poem:
"Mother to Son"
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
- Langston Hughes
Dana, mother of Keanu