I love love LOVE being a mama. Loving a child with autism can be rewarding, exhausting, confusing, emotional, wonderful and precious experience.
I’m here to share with you my journey….
Start with TRUST & BELIEVING in yourself – learning of our son’s diagnosis was a journey to say the least. We knew when he was 18 months that there was a slight concern of development but couldn’t put our finger on it. Doctors had recommended that we get an evaluation by therapists to see if there was a true delay and how we could help get him on track. Hesitation swirled in my emotions like a tornado because I had gone through the first part of my son’s life listening to the people close in my circle reassuring me that ‘he’s just a boy’ or ‘just give him time… he will grow out of it’ or ‘he’s just spoiled.’ So what do I do? My doctors are recommending to get him evaluated by strangers who don’t know him while my friends and family are telling me to wait til he’s older.
I’ll tell you what I did… I trusted my gut! I scheduled the evaluation and put on my big girl pants, took a deep breath and welcomed the 4 strangers into our home. We had the privilege of meeting the future most important women into our lives: an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a developmental therapist and a physical therapist. (Our social worker was there as well)
Occupational Therapist (OT)
My husband and I sat at our kitchen table observing an occupational therapist evaluate our son. She started off with asking him how to complete simple puzzles, hold items and play with toys.
To be honest, I wondered to myself ‘what on earth is occupational therapy? He’s not even 2 years old. What the heck does he need occupational therapy for???’
Our son was doing GREAT! He was playing and smiling so I can check this off the list! Right? …. Hmmm not quite. The therapist then asked us for his favorite toy which was Cowboy Woody from Toy Story. We gave it to our son and the therapist asked him to play with the toy. Our son proceeded to ‘play’ like he always did by throwing the toy up in the air and watching it fall time after time after time. Some of you reading this may be shaking your head in agreement with the therapist but my husband and I were in the dark. What’s wrong with him throwing it straight up and down anyway? He’s gonna have one heck of an arm, right?! 6 years later… still going strong with our OT~
Next up: Physical Therapist (PT)
‘How long has your son been toe walking?’ ‘When did he take his first steps?’ ‘Does your son have challenges with balance?’ ‘What are your concerns with your son?’ were just some of the questions asked. They had our son walk up and down our steps and I couldn’t quite understand what it was they were looking for. She asked our son to jump, sit, turn in a circle, walk, run… pretty much anything physically related. My concern was just the toe walking but I heard that kids grow out of it so I wasn’t too worried. Well 6 years later… we are still toe walking.
Let’s welcome a Speech Pathologist next (SLP)
Ok.. what’s the difference between a speech pathologist and a speech therapist? Anyone know? Please tell me. Now this was the area that I had most concern. Our son wasn’t talking … he was mostly just making noise. This part of the evaluation I understood. So I was thinking in my head that we are just going to need some therapy for speech and that’s it because the toe walking he would grow out of eventually and he could walk up and down stairs with no problem.
What I didn’t realize was everything that the speech pathologist would do for our family. We learned different speech sounds, pragmatics (basically how people talk to each other or social communication), and fluency (stuttering for example)… Stay tuned … still getting SLP therapy 6 years later.
Last but not least.. Developmental Therapist (DT)
This evaluation seemed to be very similar to the Occupational Therapist. Mostly this was based on gathering information about our son’s history. We went through a brief checklist and observed our son attempting to complete tasks like stacking blocks for example which seemed to be a struggle for him. Again our eyebrows started to raise.
2 weeks it took to get results back… 2 LONG weeks. (looking back, this was very quick turnaround) But when you are waiting, it seems like a lifetime. Our son qualified for everything! He will need 60 minutes of the following per week: OT, PT, DT, Speech and Aquatic Therapy.
WHAT?!?!? Why do we need all this? I grabbed the phone, called the pediatrician and a cup of coffee. The doctor agreed with the ‘treatment’ plan and suggested that our son may have sensory processing disorder, or potential autism spectrum disorder. He was so young that we couldn’t get a true evaluation so it was recommended to start the early intervention and see where that takes us.
So here starts the journey of denial, frustration, confusion, bargaining, depression, acceptance and a trip to Barnes & Noble! So much information is available it gets exhausting. Books, Websites, Blogs, on and on and on…
You come to a point in all this therapy and services where you start questioning if you’re doing the right thing. Does our son really need all this???
Yes yes and yes!!! EARLY INTERVENTION is key!!!! Our Danny would be such a different little dude had we not given him the support he needed… and still needs today!
Looking back 6 years later I have Thank God for those ladies and my family and my amazing support system!
I’m here to support YOU through the journey that you may be going through. Remember you are not alone! SO many resources are available and SO many other parents are going through something similar as you are reading this. Keep your head held high and give yourself a HUGE hug because you are doing amazing Mama!
Here’s our Danny through the years 😍