Stepping Out Of The Mold

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If you were to stop the common man on the street and ask him to describe skateboarders, he might say that they were a bunch of thoughtless individuals terrorizing the streets. Although that may be true in some cases, it is hardly the case with Andy Anderson, a local White Rock 20 year old who definitely doesn’t fit that stereotype. Case in point, the following Thank You letter from a mother who’s son has Autism who Andy befriended.

Dear Andy:

Why you truly are one of the most amazing people we are humbled to know. A letter of thank you:

I remember the day like it was yesterday, the feeling of the psychiatrist’s fist in my stomach as the air pursed outward through my lips. The stridor in my throat as the hands that wrapped around it tightened. My head reeling from the words so candidly said. “Your child has Autism.”

Autism stamped across the top of the report like accepted or denied in big red block letters. A flicker of hope that took light when I noticed another child’s name where my son’s should be. A template the psychiatrist said explaining he had forgotten to switch the name over.

As my husband and I walked out of the office we were given an envelope with a “resource page” we were told “good luck, it’s not a life sentence for every child.” I never met or saw that doctor again my son just became a statistic to him and to the world.

My husband and I had all the emotions from relief of knowing what was “wrong” to grief of the loss of our son and all our shattered dreams for him. Confusion, pain and desperation were emotions I remember strongly as we had no one with Autism in our lives and we were alone in a nightmarish maze of no answers. We were running blindly on adrenaline exhaustion were alone and afraid of the unknown.

We were the lucky ones though, as we had the ability to navigate a system so complex, so difficult and so foreign but yet we still had the means and the drive to find an Autism consultant and have an ABA team set up within 5 weeks. We were ready to help our son with all his needs and we did.

At the same time of the diagnosis my son entered public school. Strange as it was my child was the only “diagnosed child” with Autism at his Elementary School and the only special needs child, unheard of in this day and age.

My son never fell into the world of a child with Autism or the world of a “typical” child; he fell into purgatory a world of his own never accepted into either of the two. He was like a tiny scratch across a film, barely there noticeable to some not seen by others. Play dates were few or non existent growing up for him and birthday parties were rare. For us as parent’s our son not being included was like a pane of glass shattering into a million pieces, trying to put it back together almost next to impossible. Some shards so shattered they disintegrated and were no longer reparable, others so sharp they tore through us like a knife because no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t put it back together for our son. It tore at our very heart and soul, we have an amazing kid that few could really see.

Our son found the love of the ocean at age 6 and found a world where Autism did not exist. On his surfboard he was free to be himself, he became one with the waves, they had a relationship that did not exist on land for him. The ocean understood him and they would form a dance on the board so magical to watch. They had a language all their own.

This is where you come in Andy, a smiling 17ish year old kid with moppy hair, a silly grin and a heart so pure. The moment you saw our son you embraced him and treated him with the respect that he deserved. You talked to him like any other kiddo, you adapted your teaching methods to work for him. You never walked away once when he stopped listening and shut you out of his world. You Andy, waited patiently for him to open back up that door and let you reenter his world. As a result you began to see things through his eyes and as he did through yours. You taught him to skate and he taught you that he is going to do it his own way and you were both fine with it.

Three years later you are his mentor, you have become family to us, and you are his true friend. You Andy have taught him to dance on the skateboard in a world where Autism does not exist, where he can be free of the stigma attached to having ASD. You brought that same feeling of exhilaration to him that the ocean and his surfboard does. You have given him the strength and the acceptance to just be who he is.

Is he the best skater? No, but he’s pretty damn good! Are there some people at the park at times that do not acknowledge him or us? Yes, but those are few and far between. Will he become a pro? Chances are slim, but you never know. Does he win competitions? Yes he does. He wins no matter where he places because of the confidence that you Andy have installed in him and the ability that you have shown him that there is a place for him and his uniqueness that not only allows him to fit in but also allows him to stand out. He no longer simply stands on the coping of a bowl wondering if he drops off will he land it. He knows no matter what that you Andy will be there to catch him.

I know Andy when you become pro you will always be there for my son. You would in a heart beat walk over and bump fists with him and you will always be the same 17ish moppy haired kiddo with the helmet who was skating with our son when he was 9.

Our son did not choose Autism, Autism chose him. But Andy you chose to be “Killa B’s” friend and mentor.

Mahalo from all of us,
At the Bee Hive