The Silver Linings in Living Autism


My son Cody was diagnosed with severe autism at 17 months. As a parent I had no idea what that even meant. I knew no one on the spectrum.

I remember sitting in a sterile office while getting our diagnosis watching my little boy wander around the room opening and closing drawers, trying to leave the room while the doctor sat calmly stating what my son’s future would be.

Bleak at best. Place him, he said. You’re both young.

Place him? We want him with us. We planned for him. He’s our son.

If this story resonates with yours. Listen carefully… No one, not even a doctor, knows one’s future or can predict what one can and will not do in life. Please remember that.

Cody is a product of his environment. An environment of love and patience.

Today Cody is 22. It’s been a lifetime since receiving that diagnosis.

It’s been a journey filled with so many emotions.

I sat watching home movies of our family today and what I noticed most was a family who has so much love and devotion. Two little boys happily dancing to Barney and Thomas the train.

The same two little boys playing side by side in a sandbox. One flying a shovel the other scooping sand. Truly beautiful. Each doing their thing their way.

I saw nothing more.

I saw no labels.

In looking back I wish I had seen this view then. What I saw was what we are told to see. The typical things. The milestones.

There are so many beautiful things missed when waiting.

Cody watches home movies almost daily. I find myself sitting with him almost like an outsider looking in on a family unknown to me. I see all the moments of wonderful that were once lost all those years ago. The touching moments of just simply being who one is without expectations.

Cody has been at home full time with me for three years.

I want to talk about the gifts you can find in the really hard times.

Cody was diagnosed with severe nonverbal autism at a young age then later I.D.

Cody was very much a typical little boy filled with endless energy but being nonverbal caused so many outbursts.

Today Cody is grown and verbal. I’m not sure his diagnosis fits who he is today.

Cody has grown leaps and bounds in the last three years than all the years he ever attended school. He’s happier and much calmer.

When I was thrust into being his teacher, caregiver and adult guide I can tell you I was shocked to learn what he wasn’t learning in school.

I entrusted that my son was getting an education. Now I knew it would look different but nevertheless, an education.

I then realized instead of working with Cody he was just given what made him happy so the peers that were higher functioning could be worked with. He had a one-to-one aide so that made no sense to me.

I would pop in from time to time and it didn’t matter what day or the time of day Cody was always on a break watching his favorite video.

It wasn’t long after I started working with him as his “teacher” I realized how much he enjoyed learning. Now don’t get me wrong he loves his iPad but he enjoys learning almost as much.

Cody excels learning at home one on one. Something amazing came out of a truly devastatingly long period of chaos and hardship.

As they say when one door closes another opens. There are so many other opportunities that have evolved one couldn’t have foreseen.

Our kids can learn via zoom if being in a classroom is too triggering thus impeding their education.

If doctor appointments are hard we now have Telehealth.

Families are spending more time together because many have opted out of commuting and now work from home.

My mom now lives near us after over two decades of living over 300 miles away. She now works from home. That would have never happened.

There are many silver linings to hard moments in life.

“In living autism, find the silver linings for I promise you they’re there.”

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Leasa Hoogerwerf

I’m Leasa Hoogerwerf. Our family lives in Southern California. I love yoga, coffee and writing about everything but mostly the hard. Motherhood was not something I thought I’d be good at honestly. I never thought I’d have a child let alone one with different abilities. Just never crossed my mind. My son Cody was diagnosed at 17 months with severe autism and ID. Cody is now 22. He has taught me so much. Cody was nonverbal until age 9. He’s now reading. I started Cody Speaks out of sheer desperation to find others like our family. One late night in my office I sat and wrote. It was a very dark time and when I started sharing my pieces it helped me so much. Social media is truly a gift to connect with others around the globe — without it the possibility unlikely. It’s my hope that by sharing our life will create more understanding and provide a safer place for Cody and others that need support. Come follow us

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  1. James Green on April 2, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    I have followed you for sometime Now ,Cody is doing So Great in Your Care ,My love and support to you and your Loving family , Please Give Cody and the Rest of your Family a Big Hug for Me Wishing you, All GOOD DAYS

    • Rosa on April 3, 2023 at 3:22 am

      God bless you

  2. Rosa on April 3, 2023 at 3:21 am

    God bless you

  3. Norma Gallegor on April 3, 2023 at 8:40 am

    You are a wonderful mamma and I LOVE your hair longer as it was in the pic. 🥰