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There's a picture of two children on my desktop. One is a girl, the other a boy. She looks petulant; he is laughing. She has skin the colour of milky tea; he can pass for Caucasian. She is two, in the picture, and he is four. She is like many other little girls her age. He is autistic.

His name is Logan. His hair is fine, soft, and curled past his shoulders, until I bowed to practicality and cut it. His eyes are a soft, clear brown, and his lashes are very thick, and longer, his father grumbled, than any boy's should be. I've since learned that those are genetic markers of autism: the uncommon prettiness, the large eyes and delicate features. Sometimes I think they, along with the other gifts, must be compensation for the drawbacks of autism. He has perfect pitch and a lovely voice. He has an amazing memory, and can reproduce anything he's heard perfectly whenever he wants. Books that have been read to him only once, he sometimes repeats, word-perfect, months later. He's so sensitive to music that he conditioned himself to stop and listen whenever I sang to him, which I'd done since the months before his birth.

Logan was an intelligent baby, and he grew into a similarly intelligent child. He walked at nine months, and by a year old, he had an astonishing vocabulary. I can't point to any one day when I realised something was wrong; he'd always been a self-contained child, content to play by himself. It just seemed that that trait became stronger as time went by. He loves trains, so it didn't seem at all odd that he'd enjoy lining up all his toys, that he'd throw a tantrum if someone disturbed the pattern.

His diagnosis, at the time that picture was taken, was a recent development, and it was a relief, in a lot of ways, to have it. There were many nights when I sat by his bed, and wondered what I was going to do with a child who was obviously bright, but so difficult. And what I was doing wrong, that he'd be so difficult. Some days, he'd be sociable and charming, and other days, he ... wasn't. There'd be tantrum after tantrum, fits of violence against himself or whoever was trying to interfere with his misbehaviour. He'd destroy anything he could reach, and time outs had no effect. Spanking provoked tantrums instead of stopping them.

Still, life with Logan always had its rewards. Every little reminder that he's growing away from me makes me see just how fast childhood ends. His growing up is going to last longer than his sister's, but it's not going to last forever. It's cruel to have it drag on, I sometimes think, to have it happen in noticeable pieces rather than a steady, imperceptible progression. But the balancing act continued, and though there's been pain, there's also been pride. Pride in him, and pride in myself, for letting go, for doing the right thing for him even though it hurt.

His achievements are my achievements, too. In the end, I think, that's going to be enough.

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