Christian is caring, funny, super smart, sarcastic, has a thirst for knowledge and never – ever – stops talking. Ethan is loving, has a great sense of humour, enjoys exploring, can read at an 8-year old level, and is quiet and mysterious. Oh yeah, and Ethan has Autism.

At 18-months old Ethan was not showing any signs of communication and was referred to Speech Therapy through Erin Oaks. A few weeks into his sessions his therapist had some concerns, and discussed the idea of referring him for developmental testing. It could be something. It could be nothing.

But, with the waiting lists being so long, it was better to be on the list, and cancel later if we felt he didn’t need testing. Two years later we finally got our appointments and on the day of his fourth birthday we were told our worst fears. Ethan had Autism.

It felt like the worst day of my life. Why him? Why us? Is it my fault? Did I do something to cause it? Everything I had ever dreamt about seemed to be crushed with those three little words: Ethan has Autism. I felt lost and completely helpless. It was like I was in mourning for the child he should have been. Then I asked myself the most important question ever: Okay, he has Autism. What do I do now?

I contacted every agency I could find on the Internet that dealt with Autism and asked them that question. All were really helpful. Even if they could not directly help me, they got back to me with suggestions and names of other agencies to contact. I signed up for every available class offered. If my husband and I couldn’t both go together, we went separately and then taught each other what we had learnt.

While attending these meetings we found the best source of information came from the other parents we got to meet. We realized we were not alone; there is help, understanding and hope. Being able to talk and discuss issues with other parents who knew exactly what we were feeling enabled us to keep our sanity. Being able to discuss the fact that our 4-year old was not completely toilet-trained, and not feel judged for our “bad parenting” skills was the most amazing thing ever.

At the time of his diagnosis, Ethan could not talk and was not toilet-trained. He did not understand emotions, made no eye contact, and tantrums and meltdowns were a daily occurrence. He would not eat anything except round chicken nuggets and toast, and developmentally was at a 2 ½ year old level.

Today, while these issues are not all completely eradicated, they are so diminished you cannot even tell that he experienced them at all. Ethan is in Grade 1 in a regular school environment, and though he may not learn exactly the same way, he is now on par with his 6-year old peers and is in some cases exceeding their skills. We found that being patient, and never giving up, have helped Ethan become who he is today.

We realized very early on that we were the ones that were going to make the difference in his life. We were the ones that had to fight for him, and we were the ones that would help him become who he wants to be. But, it is Ethan who has taught us that life is amazing. Life is not supposed to be easy or taken for granted. Life is to be enjoyed for the simplest of things. Ethan may have Autism, but it is not who he is.