He is ours, unlike any other.
As you cannot compare two children, this is even more the case in children with Autism.
I am not an expert on the topic of Autism by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, I am a beginner on this path. I am still learning about what his diagnosis means in general and discovering daily what it means to him. This is a place where I will share our journey as it unfolds. My hope is that some of it might help others out there raising their own pint-sized superhero.
Like other children, Christian’s first words around 6-7 months were “mama”, “dada”, “bubba” & “lala”, the members of his family. He toyed with them for a bit and then just after he turned a year old, it all stopped. No speech. Not being familiar at all with autism, I thought his delay was from being at home with me instead of being around other little children daily. I sang to him, worked with him, and loved him. He smiled and laughed, but still, no speech.
At his 18 month check-up, we got our first indication of a problem. He showed pre-indications of autism from the results of a checklist. Again, I thought it was just a delay issue, no worries. Every child develops at their own pace, right?
In October of 2011, he began speech and play therapy and slowly things began to come together. I watched the therapists as they worked with him and did my own “sessions” with him throughout the day on his off days. I molded my behaviour and interactions with him to be fun yet purposeful. As the year progressed, he began to say words and play with toys appropriately, well mostly appropriately…lol. He could point to and say circle, triangle, oval… While his vocabulary expanded, purposeful speech was very slow to develop. What has not been slow to develop is his ability to use furniture to get into things he’s not supposed to, his ninja-like stealth in stealing every toothbrush in the house on a daily basis, the ability to take his bed and play table apart and his ability to hide buried treasure in his vent.
On July 12, 2012, the psychiatrist came out from the CDSA to evaluate Christian and find out what additional services he might need. The man looked at me after going over the test results and said, “You know what this means don’t you?”. Of course, I said no. Again, my only thought in the matter was that he had developmental delays. Worst-case, he was just a little slower than other kids his age. He then said one single word, like I should have known it all along, “Autism. He’s autistic.” I won’t lie, I cried when he was diagnosed. This mega-researching mom knew very little about Autism. What I did know was that there is no cure. That was devastating to me.
That day, I worried about his ability to love, his ability to learn and his ability to have all the joy this life holds. I was in the middle of mourning the loss of his “normal” life when I gave myself a mental boot in the backside. He already did love, he had a huge baby crush on Mary Poppins. He squealed with joy every time he saw her. He regularly came and loved on me and cuddled with me. He had already proven he could learn. He went from no speech at all to 50+ words in less than a year. He already had joy. Nothing can replace the sweet smile on his face when we repeat the words he says and he knows that we “get” him. That mental “aha!” moment was all I needed to remember that he was the same sweet, loving little boy that he had been the day before. With the determination and hard work of his family standing behind him, he will have an amazing life.
Two weeks ago, we began ABA therapy increasing his therapy to a total of six hours each week. ABA is an entirely different creature from speech and play therapy. It is very behavior centered. I will admit, I didn’t really get it during the first several sessions. Today, I got it. I saw the results of the seemingly trivial things they’ve been doing begin to surface. ABA is very therapist driven and parents are encouraged to be inactive observers. After a year of hands-on speech and play therapy, this was so foreign to me. I was so used to diving right in and helping to reinforce with the therapist. I see though how it truly is a one-on-one therapy. Every little action or reaction from the therapist has a purpose.
While we’ve had a little over a year of therapy, we really are at the beginning of our journey of understanding what Autism means to him, for now. My goal, as any parent probably would agree, is to get him to a point where autism isn’t a struggle for him, but a strength.
A few things about me and this blog.
I am a research fanatic.
I am like a blood hound when it comes to searching out facts for the important decisions, events and purchases in life. This is especially true when it comes to anything involving my children. Sometimes I will share what I’ve learned by trial and error that works for him. If it is a resource, process or fact, I will do my best to ensure that I provide the best information available. However, this isn’t meant to be the end-all, be-all how-to guide for autism. Do your research, try things and see what works for you. If you have tips and tricks, please feel free to share!
In our home, we all work together with our Spidermonkey to help him grow and enjoy his life with us mere mortals. We aren’t perfect, we falter at times, but we are a team. This is our story, our lives. We are a single parent household with four siblings, one of which just happens to have super powers.