Thursday, July 3, 2008


My 2½-year-old daughter stands in front of me, arms stretched out from her sides. “Huuh,” she says.

“Huuh” is special. A “huuh” is a hug, and it's one of the few things she actually asks for. In fact, it's one of the few things she can express verbally, because my little girl, standing there with her arms stretched out for a hug, is autistic.

We've suspected something like this for a while. We'd become increasingly concerned about her reluctance to talk, as well as other behavior, such as not responding well to her own name, some compulsive/ritualistic behavior and selectivity about food. Our pediatrician and a speech therapist have evaluated her, and have come to the consensus that she is mildly autistic. I know that the term mildly ought to be comforting, but it's hard to feel that way right now.

To some extent, I understand what she will have to deal with as she grows, having myself grown up with attention-deficit disorder. The frustration of struggling with things that come so easily to others is something to which I can definitely relate. To this day, I must take extraordinary measures to remember things like appointments or tasks, or to make sure that I don't lose things. If I am given a task, I am strongly inclined to just do it right then and there, because I know that the odds are high that I will otherwise forget it. For about a year when we moved into our new home, I had to maintain a ritual of tethering my keys and wallet to my belt until it became a habit to always put them back in my pockets instead of just leaving them in some random place. It's upsetting to see other people able to do these things with far less effort.

Fortunately, the prognosis for our daughter seems fairly good. She doesn't talk much, but she does say a few words, and she's slowly learning more. She also understands some sign language, and there are a number of common autism difficulties that are mild or absent in her. Nothing is certain at this point, but it seems that, despite some struggles, she will likely be able to live a relatively normal life, much like myself.

I look at my little girl, and I can tell there are thoughts and feelings trapped in that little head that she wants to tell me. I want to come home and have her tell me about what she ate that day, or the funny thing that Elmo did on Sesame Street, or the game that she played with Mommy. It may be some time before that happens.

But what she can tell me is, “I love you.” She stands in front of me, stretches out her arms, and says “Huuh.”


Anonymous said...

The way you express your feelings about this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

I love you too Rob. Give everyone in your family a big Huuh for me.

Smendrick said...

Very well written, Rob. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

This was amazing heartwarming. It shows beautifully how much you love your daughter and that you want what's best for her.

Unknown said...

Hello, my name is Sandy and I am a friend of Jenny's. I have a son who has autism. He is now 18 years old, goes to high school, is verbal and has hopes and dreams. His diagnosis at age 2 1/2 was mild to moderate. His prognosis was not good, they told me he may never be potty trained (he was at age 8 1/2) may never speak (he started getting words at age 6 1/2, May never express affection (he does this well).

I have been told I did an amazing job with him. My secret, love, love, love. He is who he is, a great blessing from my Heavenly Father. He was the same boy after his diagnosis as he was before. The only thing that changed was my level of understanding and knowledge.

My son wants to be a movie director. He may just succeed.