Once upon a time, Ava loved to swing. I'd take her to the park and she giggle and laugh upon first sight of the swing. She hated when I took her out.
Once upon a time, Ava said "Mama", "Dada", "duck", "quack-quack", "Abbey", "La-la-la", "Hi", "Walk" and "A-B-C-D". She slept through the night. She read books with Daddy and pointed to Elmo and various objects. She patted her diaper when she was wet so I would change her. She used to look me in the eye to get my attention. She used to smile at Daddy when he came home from work and called her name.
Now, she hates swings. She screams when we walk by them. She sometimes will say "Mama" and "Daddy". She is beginning to verbalize more but has 20 hours of therapy a week rehearsing and drilling the words into her head. She has no body awareness and runs haphazardly - crashing into things and running into the street if I am not there to catch her.
She points in books if prompted. She does not sleep through the night and spends a lot of the night stimming. She is better at eye contact, as a result of the many trials and repetitive exercises of calling her name and holding objects up to our eyes. She plays games with us once again -- she imitates me when I sing. She plays "peek a boo". She makes us all clap our hands and say "Yay!" She plays "tickle" games with me, too. It is nice to have her engage with us once again.
Ava is not the same child she once was. I mourn that every day, keeping in mind that I have to focus on the now and who she is now and will be. Last year at this time, I was panicking over her regression into her own world. I thought I was going crazy and cried because I knew something was terribly wrong. When she was diagnosed I was relieved I was not insane and the doubters were wrong. But the realization that autism is a lifelong disorder sunk in.Ava will never be the normal child I once knew. But she is still Ava. And I love her just the same.