After Raising a Son with Severe Autism, I have Redefined “Normal”

By Elaine Hall
In Guest Bloggers

As part of our month-long series with Kveller during Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Elaine Hall writes about raising a son with severe autism and carving a space for him in the Jewish community.

Our tradition dictates: “Be fruitful and multiply.” I couldn’t do either. Each year at Rosh Hashanah, where we read Hannah’s story of her inability to give birth, I cried Hannah’s tears. I prayed, “If you give me a child, I will give him back to you, to serve Elaine Hallyou all his days.” My prayer was finally answered when I adopted my son from an orphanage in Russia.

I had been raised in a religious ”Conservadox” family in a non-Jewish area of Southern Maryland and had felt different all my life. Now, I just wanted normal. I looked forward to returning to LA and beginning a normal life: car pool, little league, Tot Shabbat. On a blissful flight home across many continents, I had no idea what lay ahead of us.

Reality set in quickly. We discovered that our toddler son had liver toxicity, parasites, malnutrition, and he was spiking fevers of 105. He stared at his hands for hours at a time, spun around in circles, opened/closed and banged cabinet doors, made no eye contact, couldn’t speak, tantrumed for hours, and didn’t sleep.

Once we got him physically healthy, and shortly after his circumcision and conversion with the Beit Din and Mikveh, we received the diagnosis: Severe Autism. (Read more…)