By Laura Shumaker
The year was 1991. Matthew, who had yet to receive a formal diagnosis of autism, was 4, and Andy was 2. My husband and I dressed them in matching reindeer sweaters and took them to the company holiday party, where Santa was making an appearance. Andy climbed into Santa's lap and asked for a Nerf Bow and Arrow. Matthew was next and asked for a drain. "A train?" Santa asked cheerfully. "No," Matthew said, "a drain."
Matthew wanted a drain. He was fascinated with water going down the drain and wanted one of his very own.
Since I was still at the stage where I believed I could "fix" my son, I discounted his drain request and searched for educational toys that would "flip the switch" in his brain — Lincoln logs, painting sets, books, and a Nerf Bow and Arrow just like Andy's. None of them interested him, and then later we went to my brother's house for dinner. His daughters had gotten one of those freestanding miniature kitchens with pots, pans, plastic food — and a sink with a drain.
I went out the next day and got one just like it.
The holiday season is full of hopes, dreams, and disappointment for parents of children with special needs. Here are eight things to remember as we stumble into December:
This article first appeared in Shumaker's blog at SFGate. Reprinted with permission.