Below is a page that I submitted in a contest last year. I didn't win, but when it came down to it, for me, it wasn't about winning the contest, but about putting my thoughts and feelings about my son on my page, along with some of my favorite and most precious photos of him.
I've included the journaling from this page below the picture, as it's in smaller print and hard to read in the picture.
At first glance, one would see what looks like any ordinary 6 year old little boy. At second glance, one would see that this is not any ordinary 6 year old little boy. At every glance, though, I see my hero in an extraordinary 6 year old little boy.
Most people would find their hero in someone much older than themselves. They would look up to someone that has weathered the storms of life and graced the face of the earth far beyond their own years. They would look to someone who would wear the badge of wisdom learned through experience.
I have learned that at times, one must look down in order to look up to someone.
I look down into the most beautiful blue eyes one has ever seen, pools of wonder and mystery, accentuated by the longest and most envied eyelashes that one will ever lay eyes on. I look into the eyes of my dream baby. My 6 year old wonder child. My Zachariah. My hero, the one I admire and adore.
My little hero has had to endure more than most 6 year olds ever will. Indeed, even more than most adults will ever have to face. It is an everyday battle. Such is the life, the fight, of Pervasive Developmental Disorder/Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I didn't dream that I would have a child on the Austistic Spectrum. In fact, many of the dreams that I had for my little boy were so different than what has been handed to us over the last 6 years. Heroes fight for a cause. My 6 year old is no exception. He fights every day.
At 13 months old, I watched as my baby became lost in a world not of his own making. His mind became the bird that was caged. I watched as he sank deeper and deeper into a world that none of us could locate on a map or begin to understand.
And I have watched him fight to find his way out of that world, that cage, whatever is it that tries to hold him there, that tries to keep him from us.
Where some see a child with the vocabulary of a 3.5 year old, I see a child that lost all of his words at 13 months and then struggle to regain them, slowly but surely, one at a time. Where some see a child with speech difficulties, I see a child that has fought to learn how to speak all over again. Where some see a child that seems socially inept, I see a child that at one time cuddled and snuggled, shrink back and close himself into his world. I have seen this child fight to make contact with those in "our" world, but not a part of "his" world. To ask to hold the hands of strangers. Where some see a child that seems emotionally inept, I see a child from whom I waited almost 6 years to get my first kiss from, but oh, how sweet his kisses are now when they land on my cheek. Where some see a child still in diapers at the age of 6, I see a child that has struggled with and has started to master something most children conquer before the age of 2. And I don't think I've ever seen a child more excited about this feat. Where some see a child that doesn't seem to understand those around him, I see a child that fights everyday, through limited words and actions, to be understood by those around him. Where some see a child that seems to be oblivious to the things that go on right in front of him, I see a child that sees so much of what goes on that often is overlooked. I see a child that finds the beauty and wonder in the simple things. A child that is in touch with the greater and more important things in life that we often miss. I see a child that wants to be free from his cage. I see a child that fights to be part of something that seems so far from him.
I have seen this little soldier fight his way out of the hole, towards the light and into a world that is foreign to him and give his all and more to be a part of a world that he struggles to understand, and a world that so often doesn't make the effort to understand him.
The strength to fight, the will to endure the never-ending struggle, the passion for freedom, the courage to relentlessly pursue. These are the true marks of a hero.
This is my Zachariah. My hero.
At times, one must look down in order to look up to someone.