A Special Child

By Pam Jernigan <chiefpam@nc.rr.com>

Rated: PG

Submitted: August 2001

Summary: Their toddler's unusual behavior worries Lois and Clark, and they must learn ways to cope with what they learn about their special child.

This is a different sort of story for me, and it proved difficult to write. It was greatly improved by my beta readers: Crystal Wimmer, Claire Hess, and Chris Mulder, and I never would have managed to finish this without Anne Ciotola's encouragement. Thanks, guys!


"Congratulations, Mr. Kent, Ms. Lane … you have a healthy baby boy!"

Lois collapsed back on the bed for a moment, exhausted after her labor, but then lifted her head again. "Let me see him."

Clark moved across the room to supervise the nurses who were giving his son his first sponge bath, weighing and evaluating him. They worked quickly, then handed the baby over to his father. Clark tenderly held him close, in awe of this miracle child.

"Let me see him," Lois repeated, softly. Clark brought him to her, and she eagerly reached for him. The baby squirmed and fussed for a moment during the clumsy transfer from one set of arms to another, then settled down to gaze intently at his mother. Lois gazed at him in wonder. "He's beautiful."

"He's perfect," Clark agreed. "Mommy and Daddy love you, Adam"


"You okay, Lois?" Clark asked as they entered the newsroom.

She shrugged. "I'm okay. I miss him — a lot — but I know he's in good hands."

"Mrs. Espejo does have a knack with babies," Clark admitted. It was strange; he'd been coming to work without his son for three months, but this morning he had hated to leave him. Clark had been very involved in the search for child care, however, and he had every confidence in the motherly woman they'd found. Adam was at home with his familiar things, and if anything happened, Daddy was only a phone call and a sonic boom away.

"He'll be fine," Lois said, reassuring both of them. "We just have to get used to trusting someone else with him. We've left him with your mother before, remember? He hardly seemed to notice we were gone."


"Come on, honey," Lois coaxed. "You can do it, just take one teeny step …"

Adam stood where he was, his pudgy hands firmly grasping the edge of the coffee table, and refused to budge. He scanned the room, his eyes flickering past his mother to locate a brightly colored toy at the end of the table. Keeping at least one hand on the coffee table at all times, he inched sideways towards the toy.

Lois heard a chuckle from behind her, and turned to see Clark standing in the doorway. "He's so cautious, isn't he? He definitely doesn't get that from his mother!"

Lois smiled, but it was an effort. "Yeah, but he should be trying to walk by now, don't you think? He's over a year old!"

Clark came further into the room, settling himself on the carpet next to Lois. "There's a big variation on normal, Lois. Some kids don't walk 'til they're 15 months old, and that's totally normal. My mom says I have a cousin who didn't walk until she was a year and a half … but once she got started, it was tough to stop her." He studied her. "What's bothering you?"

Lois picked at a tiny bit of carpet fuzz. "I talked to my mother today."


"Clark, she said Adam's behind on his developmental milestones, and then she gave me this *look* and went into the same old story about how *she* quit her job to raise her kids, how *she* sacrificed everything for us — for all the good it did. She never comes right out and says that she thinks I'm evil for working, but Clark, I know she's thinking it!"

"Well …"

"I mean, I know kids need their mothers, and I'm here for him; I spend a lot of time with him."

"Of course you do —"

"We go to the park, and he goes with us everywhere. It's not quite as easy now as it used to be when he'd fall asleep in a restaurant, but it's *fun* to watch him looking around. He studies the world so intently, it's adorable, and now he can eat some finger food, and drink out of a cup so that's easier."

"Exactly, we spend a lot of time—"

"And I'm sure I'd be miserable if I stayed home, just the way my mother was — I mean, really, does she honestly think she set a *good* example in the mother department? Anyway, Adam is fine with Emma; she takes great care of him, and he likes her a lot. I mean, isn't it good for kids to have more people loving them?"

"Adam is certainly well loved," Clark assured her, pulling her into a hug. "Don't let your mother do this to you, Lois. We found the solution that was best for us — it's not the same as the choice she made, but that doesn't make it wrong." He rubbed her back as she stayed uncharacteristically silent.

"I guess this is what the parenting books call the Grandparent Problem," she said finally. "They want you to do whatever they did."

"That's probably part of it, yeah. Sometimes I wonder though … you said she wasn't very happy at home."

"Maybe she was at first," Lois grudgingly allowed. "I wasn't old enough to know. But later, she was so miserable that she'd given up her career."

"Maybe she's just jealous that you're getting to do what she couldn't."


"And he just figured out how to walk last week," Lois reported proudly. "It was the day before he turned fifteen months."

"I knew he'd get there." Dr. Baker, the pediatrician, smiled benignly. "Just lie him down in your lap for a moment, please, so I can examine him." They arranged themselves sitting knee-to-knee, with Adam's head closest to Lois's torso, and his feet nearly tickling the doctor's stomach. "There we go, Adam, good boy. So Lois, what was the big moment like?"

"He just decided the time was right, I guess. I think he was excited that his grandmother — Clark's mother — had come to visit. One minute, he's holding onto a dining room chair, the next, he's walking across the room to see her. I was so excited." She grinned, reliving the moment. "And then he just kept walking — from the front door to the kitchen and back. A couple of times, he nearly lost his balance, but you should have seen him. Whenever he started to sway, he'd crouch down in a squat until he got his balance again, then he just stood right back up and kept walking. I yelled for Clark," — no need to mention that Clark had been at work at the time — "and he came in with the video camera, so we've even got it on tape."

"That's terrific, Lois." The doctor finished his gentle probing. "And it looks like he's doing great — still a big boy, I see, but his growth pattern is entirely normal."

Lois received the reassuring news eagerly. She still sometimes worried that Adam's half-Kryptonian heritage would show, somehow, but so far the doctor hadn't mentioned any anomalies.

"How's his vocabulary?"

"Oh, um …" Lois tried to think. Why couldn't the doctor's office have given her these questions before the visit, so she'd have a chance to take notes. "He still says 'ma' instead of 'mommy' — it's been his complaint syllable for a while now. I think his first real word was 'book'." She laughed. "We have enough of them around the house. He's got a couple of other words, too."

"Okay, great." The doctor made a funny face at Adam. Adam teethed on a book. "How does he react to people?"

"Fine, I guess. He hasn't got too much stranger anxiety, but he's usually happy to see me again."

"Good, good. Now, watch this." Gently, the doctor drew Adam's legs straight, putting his ankles together. "I'll bet your mother will tell you he's bow- legged and pigeon-toed, but that's actually very normal for this stage of development."

Lois smiled. "I'll tell her — not that she'll believe me. According to her, I'm ruining his life by leaving him with a nanny."

"Well, you're not ruining his legs," the doctor replied, side-stepping the issue.

"Good to know. Um …" Lois paused, then plunged ahead. "Does he seem okay to you, really? I mean, my mother is annoying, but I think maybe she's really worried about him, and she used to be a nurse …"

Dr. Baker shook his head. "You know, it's perfectly normal for grandparents to give new parents a hard time. Adam is fine, trust me."

Lois allowed herself to be reassured. Adam was such an adorable little boy — maybe he was going to be an introvert, unlike his parents, but there was nothing wrong with that. He could be a deep thinker, someday; maybe he'd write the novel both his parents talked about but never found time for. He did things in his own time, but he was meeting all his developmental milestones within the normal ranges. So what if he didn't always wave bye-bye? He was just busy with his own agenda, that was all.

"Okay, we're done here," the doctor announced with a bright smile. "Just keep him in his diaper for now, and the nurse will be right in with his vaccinations."

"Great, thanks." Lois always worried about this part of the visit. She hated hearing Adam cry — after a shot he could only be soothed by a ride in the car — but it would be worse if he suddenly had invulnerable skin. However, the vaccinations proceeded smoothly.


Clark was quiet during Adam's bedtime routine, and by the time the busy toddler was finally asleep, Lois was anxious to find out what her husband was brooding about this time. There hadn't been any Superman-related tragedies that she knew about, but he still had a few moments when he wasn't as open with her as he should be.

Seeing that Clark was settling in on the living room sofa, Lois decided that now was a good time for some delicate probing. Fetching two glasses of wine, she joined him, and they sat in companionable silence for a few moments.

"How was your day, sweetheart?" Lois asked finally, tipping her head up to check his expression.

He was staring off into the distance, but at her movement, he looked down and smiled wryly. "Not bad, but …"

Lois tried to look attentive, without being pushy. It was too early to be pushy.

"Well, you know there was that bomb threat at a day care today."

Lois nodded, calling up what few facts she remembered. "Little Angels, wasn't it?"

"Right. Superman checked the place out, and it was clean, then I went back as Clark to get the story."

"I read the article; sounded to me like it was the owner's ex-husband harassing her."

Clark shrugged. "The police will sort it out, I'm sure."

Lois frowned at this uncharacteristic lack of concern. Well, that wasn't exactly right; he was obviously worked up over something, it just wasn't bomb threats. "So what's the problem?"

He sighed. "Lois, while I was talking to the director, a little girl came in. She had slipped out of class, and she was chattering up a storm — really cute stuff." He tried to smile, but couldn't quite pull it off. "Lois, she was talking … short sentences, and they weren't exactly grammatically correct, but I could understand a lot of what she said."

Lois felt a cold ball form in her stomach. "Unlike Adam, you mean."

Clark nodded miserably. "I asked the director how old she was … it's hard to tell with kids, you know? But she said the girl had just turned two."

Lois winced. Adam was nearly two and a half, and still wasn't putting words together. She reached for her usual rationalization. "Well, girls talk earlier than boys."

"Lois … I … yeah, maybe you're right." But he didn't look convinced.

Lois put her wine glass down and leaned closer into her husband's embrace. It killed her to think that her perfect son might not be perfect, after all. Clark tightened his arms around her. They remained that way for a long time, in silence.


"A," Adam said, handing his mother a puzzle piece.

Looking at it, Lois saw that it was indeed a letter A, from Adam's alphabet puzzle. He'd demonstrated an early interest in letters, and by the time he'd turned two he had memorized the alphabet. He couldn't pronounce all the letters — W was pronounced "dub-na-bull" — but when asked, he could identify any of them by pointing, and could recite all twenty-six in order.

"A!" Adam said again.

"A," Lois repeated patiently, and took the letter. They'd played this game before. He brought her all the letters, in order, and she lined them up at the edge of her desk. When the letters were all in a row, Adam retrieved them all, one at a time, in opposite order. Sometimes he repeated the whole ritual three or four times. At first, Lois had liked the game; it gave her the opportunity to do a little work on her computer while he was playing. Now, it made her vaguely uneasy. Was it normal for a child to be so intent?

"Adam," she coaxed, "let's sing a song or something, okay?"

"B," he told her, pushing the puzzle piece at her.

She held it in her hand. Maybe if it were out of sight, she could distract him. "Adam, let's play! If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands—" She paused, but he was busy clawing at her closed hand.

"B!" he repeated, growing a little frantic at her refusal to play the game.

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands—"

"B!!" His stubby fingers worked on her closed hand, prying her fingers open, his whole body trembling in agitation.

Lois sighed. "B," she repeated, surrendering the puzzle piece. Adam placed it carefully next to the A, then went back to the puzzle for the next piece.

It occurred to Lois that through this whole exchange, Adam had never once met her eyes. Was that normal? The uncertainty was getting to her. It was time to find out what normal was.


"Look, I just want to know how he's doing, developmentally."

"He's fine," Dr. Baker soothed her, with a brief glance at Adam, who was busily opening and closing the cabinet doors.

"No, I don't think he is," Lois contradicted, her voice almost breaking, in time with her heart. "Look, if you won't examine him, I'll find someone who will."

It finally dawned on the pediatrician that this was more than typical new parent nerves. "Okay, calm down. Hey buddy," he called to Adam. "Come here."

It took several attempts to gain the two-year-old's attention, but he willingly played a few simple games with the doctor. Lois was proud to notice how clever he was at figuring them out, but still, he didn't talk much, communicating instead by gestures, or by taking the doctor's hand and using it like a tool. "He does that with me, too," she said, unable to keep quiet. "When he's thirsty, he'll come grab my hand, and lead me to the refrigerator — sometimes he'll say 'mil' or something, so I'll know he wants milk. I mean, that works for him — he's home most of the time, either with us or with our nanny, so we know what he wants, so why should he bother learning more words?" Put like that, it almost sounded plausible.

Dr. Baker tousled Adam's hair affectionately. "Good job, Adam, thank you." When he looked up, his expression was thoughtful. "I'm going to give you a referral, to the Developmental Evaluation Center."

Even though she had half-expected it, this was still a blow. "Why?"

"Well, he doesn't have much eye contact … maybe that's because I'm a stranger, but he's not very verbal, either. And some of his movements … well, I'd just like to have the DEC look at him, to be sure."

"What's that?" she managed to ask.

"It's a service of the county: they have teams of speech therapists, occupational therapists, educational specialists, a pediatrician, a social worker, and a couple of others, I think. They can do a better job assessing his progress; a team effort is better for these sorts of things."

Lois took a deep breath, controlling herself. "When can we take him?"


"Adam, can you say 'Milk, please'?" Lois coached her son, crouching down to try to make eye contact.

He pulled at the refrigerator door handle, and said "Mih."

Lois accepted that; he still had difficulty in speaking clearly. "Say 'please'," she prompted, making no move to fulfil his desire.


"Say 'please'," Lois insisted. They had fought this battle several times already. Lois felt terrible at causing her son distress, but at his age he should be able to do this. Eventually, he was coaxed into saying 'pease'.

"Certainly!" As quickly as she could, she prepared Adam's sippy cup. "Good job, honey," she praised him, as she handed him the cup.

He took a big drink and smiled. In his child-clumsy speech, he tried to copy her words. "Good job, honey."


"Here in my hat, I have Little Cat A," Clark read from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back to Adam, who was busily jumping up and down on the bed. He had been jumping for the past few minutes, to all appearances oblivious to his father. Clark turned a page and sighed. This was one of the longest books that Adam had, and Clark was starting to get tired of reading it every night. He glanced at his jumping son, then turned two pages at once and continued reading.

Adam stopped jumping. "No, Daddy!" he said, and firmly turned the page back to what Clark had skipped.

Clark chuckled. "Okay, okay, no cheating." He finished reading the book, and Adam came over to sit with him for the last page, at least. "The End," Clark said firmly, closing the book. Before his son could ask for it again, he suggested, "Let's jump 1 2 3."

Adam scrambled up, his face beaming. He loved numbers almost as much as he loved letters, and he'd created this game.

Clark stood by the edge of the bed, while Adam stood on the bed, facing him. Clark placed his hands under his son's armpits. "Ready?"


Slowly at first, carefully at all times, Clark picked up Adam, then lowered him again, in assisted jumping. "One … two … three!" At the count of three, he gently tossed the boy sideways on the bed.

Adam giggled in delight, then scrambled up again for another round. "More!"

Clark grinned at his son, delighting in their interaction. "One … two … hey!" Adam twisted himself out of his father's hands to flop down early. "That's not right!" Clark said in an exaggerated scold.

Adam giggled even harder and echoed "That's not right!" tickled to death with his own joke. Then he scrambled to his feet again. "More, Daddy!"

At moments like this, Clark found it hard to believe his son was anything but normal.


Before they could even get on the waiting list for an evaluation, they had to fill out a questionnaire. "Does he play appropriately with other children?" Clark read.

"How the hell are we supposed to know what 'appropriately' means?" Lois demanded crossly. "He's the first child I've ever paid any attention to. They're the experts; they should tell me."

Two months later, they did. The evaluation took four nerve-wracking hours. The details of the tests blurred together, but Lois would forever after remember the shirt Adam had worn that day. Even though they had known he was a little behind in his speech, the tests had revealed deficits in his fine and gross motor skills, as well. At least he had shown his intelligence in picture-matching and counting. His hearing and eyesight were checked and deemed normal. No, he hadn't had many ear infections. Yes, he often seemed to be in a world of his own, but he was just introverted, right? The experts had murmured platitudes.


The week before they got the results almost seemed longer than the two month wait for the evaluation.

"Mr. Kent, Ms. Lane, thank you for coming back," the team leader, Dr. Taylor, greeted them.

"No problem," Clark said politely. It had actually been quite difficult to make sure all three of them — Lois, Clark, and Superman — were all available for this late afternoon appointment, but nothing short of a national disaster was going to keep them away. Adam was at home with his nanny, and their work day was over. Clark kept hold of Lois's hand, whether for giving or receiving comfort, he wasn't quite sure.

"You have a delightful little boy," Dr. Taylor began. "And he has some impressive strengths. However, he also has a few significant weaknesses, primarily in the social and communication areas. We feel that he fits the profile for Autistic Spectrum Disorder."

Clark felt his heart pound as Lois gripped his hand. Their perfect son … all their dreams and hopes for the future. All shattered into nothingness, with nothing to replace them.

"Here, we've made a chart," the doctor continued, "showing all his test scores, and I'll explain them all to you …"

Clark tried to pay attention, but the rest of the interview tended to blur.

"He is verbal, which is a very positive sign; about half of all autistic individuals never speak."

He tried to remember what he'd read about autism, which wasn't much. Would Adam end up in an institution, banging his head against the wall?

"You said he spoke mostly by quoting phrases that he's heard; that's called echolalia. It's actually a common stage in language-learning that most children go through. Some children, like Adam, seem to get stuck there for a while."

Would Adam ever hold a job, or make friends … or fall in love? What if he inherited superpowers? Dire possibilities chased each other around in his head.

The doctor finally let them go, laden down with lists of recommended reading and clinics that did pediatric therapy, along with a few badly photocopied articles on autism. They walked to the parking lot in silence.

When they reached the car, Clark couldn't bear to let Lois's hand go, and instead pulled her into a hug. For a long moment, they just stood there, taking whatever comfort they could from each other. When Lois pulled away, Clark could see a sheen of tears in her eyes. "Are you okay?"

She considered that. "No, not exactly. I'm just numb, mostly."

A distant cry for help came in on the wind, and Clark was almost relieved by the familiarity of it. Petty criminals, he could deal with. "Are you okay to drive?" he asked his wife.

Her gaze sharpened. "Yeah, I'll be fine. You hear something?"

At his hesitant nod, she squared her shoulders. "I'll be fine — go! I'll meet you at home."

Their lips met for a kiss that lingered a bit longer than usual, but then he turned away to find a place to turn into Superman, feeling remarkably un-super. His son had been devoured by a mysterious monster called 'autism' and he was powerless to fix that.


Lois put Adam to bed herself, trying to sneak in as many cuddles as she could while reading to the squirming child. He was still as cute and adorable as ever; it was almost impossible to think of him as disabled. "Developmentally delayed" was the term the doctor had used. Did that mean that he would develop eventually? There were no guarantees. He was over a year behind in his language skills, yet he wasn't delayed in all areas; he was almost a year ahead of his age group in pre-academic skills.

Reluctantly, Lois tucked Adam into his crib and let herself out of his room, so that he could play a while more and put himself to sleep. She supposed she ought to eat something; dinner had held no appeal. Clark had been gone for hours, and while that wasn't entirely unusual, she was starting to wonder.

She found him sitting in the living room. She sat next to him on the couch, as he made the automatic adjustments in posture to tuck her in close. "Busy evening?" she asked lightly.

He shrugged. "Sort of. I had a lot to think about."

"Yeah." She looked over at the coffee table, which held the papers from Dr. Taylor. "Have you read those articles?"

"I glanced at them. The first thing they said was that this was a genetic disorder." His voice sounded strained and flat. "I'm sorry, Lois."

"Clark!" Lois had worried he might blame himself. "This has nothing to do with Kryptonian genes. I looked through those papers; millions of kids in America have autism, and they can't all be part-Kryptonian! It just happens sometimes. Anyway, they don't know yet *what* causes autism, so don't be so quick to blame yourself."

"Maybe millions of Kryptonians had autism, too, Lois," Clark suggested, then glanced up at her. "But thanks."

"Oh, don't thank me," she said, crossly. "I'm just barely holding myself together — I'm only propping you up because we can't both collapse at once. I was getting him ready for bed, and, Clark, I love him so much, and I'm so scared …"

His arms came around her, and in the safety of his embrace, she finally let herself cry. She cried for the loss of the child she'd thought she had, and she cried at the amount of work they would all need to do, to try to compensate as best they could for his disability.


Lois found herself crying at several points during the next week; it seemed any little thing could set her off. But in between crying and working, she determined to research this new enemy. She cleaned out the bookstore and spent every spare moment reading the latest books. When she finished those, she hit the Internet. And bit by bit, the feeling of helplessness receded. There was no cure for autism, according to traditional medicine. But there were a great many things that they could try with traditional therapy and alternative medicine. Some methods boasted of cures; others bitterly denounced them for raising false hopes. And it was emphasized over and over and over that every child was different.

Adam's case, it seemed, was relatively mild. He could speak, and he was not mentally retarded, as perhaps as many as three-quarters of autistic children were. A ray of hope peeked out from behind the clouds. At least for Lois.


Clark was having a more difficult time coping. He had incredible powers, he saved lives almost daily, and mediated conflicts all over the world. But in the face of this new adversary, he was helpless. The week passed in a black cloud of depression. He barely functioned at work. In the evenings he went flying, just for something to do. Some distant part of him regretted leaving Lois alone, but he rationalized that she was too buried in her research to notice.

By the end of the week, he found himself following some dim impulse and heading west. In no time at all, he was touching down on his parents' farm. Spinning out of the suit, he walked up to the side door. "Mom? Dad?"

"Clark?" his dad's voice answered. Jonathan emerged from the house and gave Clark a big hug. Clark endured it, feeling nothing. Jonathan took a long look at him. "Let's go out to the barn. I've got a tractor engine that needs to be looked at."

"Okay," Clark answered, not entirely sure why he was there. He'd almost dreaded seeing his parents after this week's news, feeling obscurely that he had ruined their joy in their grandchild, but a lifetime of relying on their love was not so easily wiped away.

"Your mom's in town tonight," Jonathan told him. "Some school board thing; you know your mom's gotten real interested in public education since — well, since Adam was born."

Clark laughed harshly. "That's ironic. Adam won't be anywhere near normal schools."

Jonathan considered that for a moment. "You don't know that," he finally said. "He's a real bright boy, even if he is a little different. You don't know what he'll be able to do."

"Yeah, that's just it, Dad — we don't know. I used to think I knew; Lois and I had it all planned out, you know? He'd be as bright as his mother and he'd go to Princeton and maybe be a writer — not just articles like we do, but stories and books … *real* writing. Literature, even." Clark stared around the inside of the barn, oblivious to it. "Now we'll be lucky if he doesn't end up in a home somewhere, banging his head against the wall all day, or counting spilled toothpicks!"

Jonathan listened patiently as Clark's disappointment and anger at the world spilled out. "Parents never really know," he finally said.

Clark turned to focus on his dad, a question clear in his eyes.

"Parents never know how their children will turn out," Jonathan elaborated. "You just found that out earlier than most of us. Most of us, we spend the first five or ten years thinking we can plan it all — give them the right lessons, the right activities, and we can predict what they'll do with it. Some families try to run their kids' lives for longer than that. Eventually, though, the kids break away — or at least they should. Look at you."

"What about me?"

Jonathan smiled, love for his son evident. "When you were little, you had a real love for animals. We used to think you'd grow up to take over the farm, or maybe we'd let you go far enough away to be a veterinarian in town. We never thought you'd end up traveling the world and saving lives."

Clark squirmed. "I never realized …"

"It's okay, son. You had a destiny — you help a lot of people, and we love you. So even though it wasn't our dream, we were happy that you found your niche." He paused. "You have to let Adam find his niche."

"But dad, he'll never be normal!"

Jonathan laughed. "Normal is overrated. He's still Adam, Clark. Still your perfect son. He's different, yes … and you know that being different can be hard. But different can have its good points, too." Jonathan gave his super- powered son a significant look. "Your job as a parent is to help him. You find the ways to help him, and you do all you can, then you stand back, and let him fly. Don't worry, Clark. Adam's smart. He'll fly on his own someday."

"You mean, literally?" Clark couldn't help asking.

"That too," Jonathan smiled equably. "Maybe someday, that too."


Clark flew back to Metropolis in a much lighter mood. The future was still unknowable, but then it always had been. It was only the illusion of certainty that had been lost. Adam was still a great kid, with a lot going for him, and Clark was determined to do everything he could to help.

He landed in the back courtyard and walked into the house. Lois was in the study peering intently at another website. "Lois? Have you been in here all evening?"

"I've been working," she told him, then swung her chair around to face him. "Where have you been?"

"I went to see my dad. He really got me thinking. I've been going a little crazy this week—"

"Yeah, I've noticed," she said softly, without criticism.

"But I think I'm okay now. There are a lot of things we can do to help Adam; that's what's important right now."

"Exactly. Clark, there's a lot of things we can do for Adam. We need to get him into speech and occupational therapy; I've already found a clinic that takes our insurance. They've got a waiting list, but at least we're on it. New Troy has some decent public services for special needs kids, and our county has Early Childhood Intervention; we're on that list too. I think I'm on the track of a local support group — from what I can see on the web, a lot of the progress in autism is made by parents working together, so we need to get hooked into that network. And I've found a book that talks about one-on-one intervention, it's called Applied Behavior Analysis. Some parents have had really good results with that. There's also the whole biological theory: there are doctors who think that autism is caused by various malfunctions in people's digestive systems! Something about incomplete proteins that have a narcotic-like effect on the brain. Supposedly there are diets that can really help some kids — you'll have to cook for us," she grinned, "but we can try that, too. The point is, we have options, and I intend to check into them all."

Clark blinked. She'd been busy.

"But it's going to take a lot of time." Lois took a deep breath. "Clark, I know I've always been career-obsessed … but when I see a problem the only way I know how to deal with it is to dive in, head first. Now we've got this autism thing; we've got to figure out how to fight it. I want to take a leave of absence from work."

He raised an eyebrow, then slowly nodded. "Okay. We'll fight this."

"We'll fight this," she agreed, reaching for his hand. "And somehow, we'll win. Together."



Dedicated to all the parents of kids with special needs.

All people with autism are different, with different symptoms and levels of impairment. Other problems, like mental retardation or cystic fibrosis, can co- occur with autism. There is currently no physical test for autism, although certain tests do show characteristic patterns. The Autism Research Institute (http://www.autism.com/ari/) is dedicated to finding biological causes and treatments for autism. Perhaps someday there will be a cure.

This story was written for the LAFF2001 booklet. Each LAFF has a charity, and this year, the charity was autism. As I have some personal experience, I volunteered to write something short that would, hopefully, make this mysterious disability more comprehensible.