When our son was about to enter second grade, we decided to visit Glenwood Springs on a mini vacation. We were in the middle of trying to figure out the best schooling options for him and needed a break from all the decisions. Our son was diagnosed with autism at age 3 ½, and up to this point, we had been working through his sensory issues and speech delay. We were by no means done, but we were at a point where we felt we could go on a vacation as a family.
After we arrived, we tried to think of things that our son could do within the range of his tolerances. We visited the big Hot Springs pool, we fished in a little hatchery pond, and we searched for a good treat store. My husband mentioned Hanging Lake (a beautiful lake at the top of a very steep hike, one we had visited on our honeymoon). Would our son be up to the intensive hike just to stare at a lake? We decided what the heck, we could try it and quit early if he wasn’t up to it.
When we arrived at the park and started up the trail, our son bolted ahead of us. He discovered large boulders along the way and wanted to get up on top and pose for pictures. I probably have a picture of every boulder on that trail. Once we reached the top, we forgot the difficult hike for a while and relaxed in the beauty of the lake. (It really is a fantastic trip if you can make it!)
Our hike to Hanging Lake mirrors most of our family’s experience with autism: with each new goal, we planned for a difficult hike, our son surprised us with his abilities, we did our best to overcome the many boulders along the way, and he made many silly poses for the camera. One exception is that we knew what Hanging Lake was and what it took to climb up there. When we received our autism diagnosis, we didn’t have a clue what that meant or what we were about to face.
So many families that I talk to had the same overwhelming experience at their diagnosis. However, they usually have different struggles and different strategies than we did. Each case of autism is unique, and I am continually amazed at how parents, kids, and the many amazing therapists and teachers do their best to work through the obstacles.
We all meet at the beginning of the trail. We may not know exactly where we’re going to end up, but we keep climbing, we keep challenging ourselves to find the best answers for our children, and we enjoy the beauty of those triumphs when they come.