My son is currently 9 years old. He was an accident, but by golly a great one! Our journey began when he was only 2. I had returned home after graduating college with my undergrad degree. I had taken him back with me and raised him while attending classes two hours from everyone I knew back home. I graduated shortly after his second birthday. His father plays no role in his life (his response was that my son was "retarded", I hung up the phone and haven't spoken to him in person since. He can talk to my lawyer.)
I enrolled him in the daycare program at the local YMCA. It wasn't long before some issues started to crop up. He was ok for about a month or two then behavior reports started cropping up. He kept eloping from the room and they'd find him in the hallway (pretty stupid when he has to pass through another room to get to a hallway!), he'd have tantrums, and at one point was emptying out his diaper. They told me if it continued then they would have to kick him out. I pretty much said "over my dead body" and told them it must be an issue with their staff. We had NO issues at the daycare center we were at previously and so no concerning behavior. I even had previously complained about finding dry bowel movements in his diaper when I picked him up. Yes. DRY. We continued to have this fight for another week or two until I got angry enough that I wrote a letter to the director of the YMCA's in my county. Apparently he wasn't so amused. Anyway, an investigation was conducted and people got fired for improper care of the children and the behavior write ups were destroyed. I wasn't the only one complaining, I was just the loudest. A couple months after that he was moved into a new room. The lady in this room was much older and had been at the Y for decades. After a couple of weeks she approached me and said she thought he might be slightly Autistic. We discussed it and I allowed the Y to have our home school district evaluate him. By this time he was 3 years old.
So the school came in and did their tests and whatever else it is that they do with the young'uns. They weren't able to place him as Autistic or Asperger's. He was obviously high functioning but his social skills were non-existent. They decided on a watch and see approach and gave the diagnosis of PDD-NOS. They also started him with the Early Intervention program with the IU. (This move was instrumental in getting the verbal child I have today!) By the time he was 4 they had officially diagnosed him as Autistic. Over the next year I went from a child who would make noise to a child who finally said "mom", "I love you", and I started having conversations with (he was only using 2-3 word sentences).
The next couple of years were rather busy and intensive. We started receiving Wraparound services through the Achievement Center complete with many hours of TSS involvement. We started with just the TSS at the daycare center and eventually the school and later moved to having the TSS work with him at home. Unless you've been through this process you can't imagine what it is like. We had to work on things that we take for granted. How to bathe, wash our hands, make a sandwich. We also had to work on how to ask for something, how sentences go together, sequencing, how to be polite, act appropriately.... Oh the list just goes on! I'll tell you what, you name it, and we had to teach him it! My entire life was devoted to teaching him these skills. Literally. There was no going out to dinner, hanging out with friends, or relaxing on the couch. It CONSUMES your life. The only thing we have been completely unable to get him to comprehend is safety. He can tell you something is a bad idea (like jumping off a pile of couch cushions) but when it comes to application.... Forget it. Eventually... I can't give up yet!
Today he is very verbal and can communicate very well. Gone are the days of sign language and mass confusion. He is a lot more social although not always appropriate. He used to be entirely placed in Autistic support but has now moved to being mostly mainstreamed for his content areas and specials. It's amazing to look at him and see how far we've come in such a short time. I can't stress how important it is to get help for these kids early on. Had I sat there in denial for even a second I doubt we could have gotten this far. I didn't grieve or try to find blame. I just hit the ground running and asked where to go from here. I was thrilled to know what I was up against.
My biggest pet peeve from people is pity. That usually comes from those who are ignorant about what ASD even is, but unfortunately not always. I don't resent my life or my child. I enjoy every second of it and he truly is the greatest blessing in my life. Frankly, your pity doesn't make my life any easier. Yeah sure, maybe my life is hard. But let's remember that I only have him so I don't know anything else. And even if I had another child, would that truly be a fair comparison? What two children are alike? We live an incredibly enriched life that has no shortage of love or happiness or support. He is also quite a little comedian so my life is also never dull!! Anyone who meets him can't help falling in love. Not that I blame them. He totally rocks!
Until next time.