My beautiful son was born December 10, 2014. Every day with him has, and is, pure joy. Around the age of 9-10 months old, I noticed him not excelling in things that I thought he should “just get,” by now. He wasn’t babbling or speaking, he was a happy baby, but didn’t show a lot of expressions on his face, he showed no interest in walking, he preferred to be alone, and crowded areas or parties seemed to bother him. Eventually things that bothered him turned into full blown meltdowns. Meltdowns that made me cringe because I didn’t know what or how to help my son. Even going into a semi-crowded restaurant became a thing of the past, something we could no longer do as a family.
I made mention of these concerns that were starting to pile on, to our pediatrician, and was told that he could just be a late bloomer, and not to worry. As a mother I did worry. Every single day I worried, as I watched my son not meet milestones according to some baby app I had downloaded during pregnancy. He wasn’t speaking, and it seemed as if he looked through me, never at me, when I would speak to him. By his 2 year old check up I requested a referral to a specialist. At first my pediatrician recommended I wait until he was 3. A whole year?!?! No, thank you. I demanded my referral, (because you as a parent can!), and then began the lengthy process of calling to get put on a 5 month waitlist for our specialist.
I will never forget the day of our observation. It was August 16, 2017, a whole two weeks before hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Up to this point I had filled out mounds of paperwork regarding the type of pregnancy I had, the type of birth I had, the type of birth my mother had, disease, illness, on my side of the family, my husbands side of the family, it was endless. As the doctor came in she already had our stack of paperwork and had gone through everything, and again, we went through all of it just one more time. She then started to ask my son to complete a few small tasks. He obliged to some degree, where other things that were being asked were dismissed with a grunt, or hand swipe- there were a few meltdowns which I did not correct because I wanted to doctor to see what I had to see on a daily basis. No eye contact, non-verbal, not completing tasks, extremely low vocabulary (if any), I watched her check every box on some form she kept for her records. Finally after 4 hours of observation, she gave us our verdict, and on August 16, 2017, my son was diagnosed with Autism. I literally remember sinking into my chair, still inside the observation room, and then, the tears came. They didn’t stop until exactly 3 days later. I cannot tell you what happened after our diagnosis, my husband had to step in and gather all the forms and paperwork, a social worker came in to console me, and all I remember her saying is; “this is not your fault.” Flash forward 3 days later, I started going through the paperwork, diagnosis letter, pamphlets, etc to help gather my thoughts. Still upset, I started reaching out to the social worker that was so kind to me before, and immediately threw myself into all things Autism. I ordered books on Amazon, I attended meetings for parents with recently diagnosed children, everything I could think of to start helping my child. I started a journal, which I still write in to this day, the first several pages are filled with cursing, and lost thoughts, but it helped. It helped me cope.
I enrolled my son into several programs. Many that are free to all families. You just have to make a lot of phone calls to get through to the right people. The first being a home program called ECI or Early Childhood Intervention. Three different ladies came to our house and did occupational therapy, speech, and language therapy. These stop once your child turns 3, but you are then guided to your designated districts PPCD program where another round of paperwork is needed to be filled out. PPCD was a struggle with us. We had good and bad days, a lot of transitioning and moving around to find the right program that fits your child’s needs.
As of today I am happy to report that my son is in a “pre” Pre-K program that has been tailored to fit his needs. He receives speech therapy, and outside speech therapy at a place I could not be happier with. MY SON IS SPEAKING!!! He is not where he needs to be, BUT he has made leaps and bounds considering where we started, and starting next year he will be starting general ed Pre-K with support!!! We are beyond blessed and excited for our little man, and how far he has come! I still cannot fully talk about it without getting choked up, but thinking about how we’ve all come puts the biggest smile on my face!!! If you’d made it this far, you may wonder why I refer to it as “our” diagnosis. I say this because I am with my son every step of the way. This is our journey, and he leads me just as much as I lead him. The most important thing we must all remember is that we are these children’s advocates, we are their voice, we have the right to tell the school/doctor when we do not agree with something. There are laws that protect us! I encourage everyone to do their homework and read up on all the disability/educational laws for their state to get the most out of their child’s education.