I am not a public speaker, anyone who knows me knows this is true. So when I was asked before spring break to sit on a panel of parents from the Rich Center at a conference on autism my knee-jerk reaction was a resounding “NO”! There is no way I can stand up in front of 220 medical and pharmacology students and talk.
After my initial, hasty, no I became intrigued at the thought of telling our story. I spoke with one of the other parents and she explained it a bit to me. I began to think that maybe it was something I could do. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. It definitely had it’s selling points. For starters, I wouldn’t be alone. Having other parents there would make it easier. They also wanted our children there. I have to admit that I have used Lucas in the past to deflect attention from me. He’s so cute and silly that no one pays much attention to me when he’s around. This is a good thing! Okay, this is something I can do. I decided to say yes.
So last Friday, April 20 I picked Lucas up from school at 1 pm and we drove to Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio on an “adventure”.
When we got there we had to go through security and check in. They gave us name tags. I made sure to stick Lucas’ to his back so he couldn’t destroy it. (As soon as we sat down he started picking at mine so I knew I made the right decision there!)
We were led into a large lecture hall with rows of long tables. We went down front to a table with microphones. We had a few minutes to get organized before we began. I brought the iPad, portable DVD player, and a small bead maze as well as a thermos of water and a plethora of fruit snacks. Everything I could possibly need to keep Lucas occupied for an hour.
We began by telling our stories. They wanted us to explain signs and symptoms, how the diagnosis affected us as parents, the impact it has on our families, and the treatments and therapies we are seeking. Once I began speaking my nerves vanished. This is the easy part, I have no problem talking about my kids. The moderator also asked questions about what we hope for from the medical community and if we tried any experimental treatments or therapies.
After we finished we took questions from the audience. The one that stands out in my mind was asked by a young man. He wanted to know about our children’s sibling relationships. I love to answer this question because even though Liam irritates Lucas most of the time I think he really likes him. He initiates play and will give him hugs and kisses when prompted.
The day was full of surprises. I learned that I could talk in front of 220 people without throwing up and I also learned that Lucas can sit for 45 minutes without imploding. I am so proud of how well he did and what a good boy he was.
I really hope to get the opportunity to do this again.