I will always remember
that park in Nicosia, Cyprus, because that’s where I had, as Oprah would say, my "Aha Moment". I began to notice that there were mostly fathers in the park with their children. It was also more common for fathers to play with their children in the evening. The most profound and wonderful image of a father and child sharing time together as a common event is still embedded in my mind...
I will always remember that park in Nicosia, Cyprus, because that’s where I had, as Oprah would say, my "Aha Moment". I began to notice that there were mostly fathers in the park with their children. It was also more common for fathers to play with their children in the evening. The most profound and wonderful image of a father and child sharing time together as a common event is still embedded in my mind.
Two years before our son was born, I was on a foreign assignment in Cyprus, located near Greece. The people of this beautiful Mediterranean Island enjoyed pristine air, gorgeous beaches, scenic mountain views and unmatched hospitality. It was very much like a small town in the United States. From the balcony of my second-floor apartment, I enjoyed watching families gathering in the park below. To me, life was somehow different in Cyprus. I immersed myself in the culture, made friends, ate local food and visited the ancient sights on the island. As they say, life was good in Cyprus.
About two years after my "Aha Moment,” I was blessed to be the proud father of a beautiful baby boy. For the first 18 months we shared life together as we breathed the pristine air of Cyprus, took dips in the blue Mediterranean Sea, basked in the sunshine, ate non-toxic foods, and drank unpolluted water. Our son was developing as a healthy, happy, and typical child. Again, as they say, life is good in Cyprus.
After my family returned to the United States we settled into our new home in Phoenix, Arizona. Our crisis had begun.
At approximately 22 months of age, we started to notice dark circles around our son’s eyes; the pediatrician stated that it was only allergies and prescribed him antibiotics. As we were unconvinced, we chose not to give them to him. We then realized that our son’s speech was regressing: previously, he was speaking in simple sentences and was now only using 2 words. The pediatrician's only explanation was that our son was an only child and speculated that his speech would increase as he became older. We left the doctor’s office frustrated, angry, depressed and feeling a sense of hopelessness: he could not explain why our son lost his speech to begin with. From this, we can provide for you the following advice: find a good doctor. They are out there, and question everything because ultimately the parents are the ones who will recover their child.
We noticed our son making repetitive motions, called “stemming”, such as placing toys in a straight line and just looking at them for long periods of time. The worst were the two-hour temper tantrums several times a day. After another visit to the pediatrician, we contacted a psychologist to have our son tested and received diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): a neurological disability that affects the development of social, learning, communication and motor skills. At that time we had two choices: we could follow the doctor's advice (essentially "wait it out"), or we could become proactive and heal our son ourselves.
We chose the latter. Our journey together is a miracle.