My son’s autism diagnosis changed my life.
Yes, I was aware that he had a speech delay.
I knew something was wrong from the time he was two.
He wasn’t developing like my girls did.
Our pediatrician joked with me that we were “babying” him too much which was partially true. Maybe he wasn’t asking for things because we were just giving them to him?
Nathan is the baby of the family and our only boy. We did tend to dote on him.
Maybe the doctor was right.
I wanted the doctor to be right.
And I do tend to worry.
But deep down, I knew.
After multiple visits I put my foot down and demanded a referral to Early Intervention, and I requested for my son to be screened for autism at Blair Batson in Jackson. I was told the first available appointment was six months away.
This would be the first of many autism wait lists and frustrations.
There is nothing more frustrating than knowing your child needs help and being told there’s nothing you can do but wait.
Since I’m not a sit around and see what happens kind of gal, I looked for services available to us in the meantime.
I began taking Nathan to speech therapy at our elementary school. The speech pathologist there was fantastic. She took the time to get to know my son, which was not easy considering he didn’t say a word. Somehow she discovered his love of all things cookie, and tried bribing him. Didn’t work.
Instead of giving up, she got creative, and asked me for pictures of our family and household items, which she laminated and made into flashcards. He did enjoy flipping through the pictures but never said a word.
Every time we left the school, the security guard tried to give Nathan a high 5, and every time it was returned with a blank stare.
My heart was breaking.
I took online quizzes and read a billion blog posts about autism warning signs. When I watched television, I’d see that commercial where the baby doesn’t respond to his parents in the car, and I’d relate and become nauseated.
I stopped watching TV.
I held out hope for some other diagnosis.
I dreaded autism like it was cancer.
While we waited for the autism screen, we had Nathan’s hearing tested since he did not always respond to his name.
This should have been a simple test, but we have found that nothing with Nathan is simple. He has a thing about his ears. As in, nobody can mess with his or he goes ninja on them. Since the hearing test required him to sit perfectly still with buds in his ears for 2-3 minutes, we had to take another route.
A sedated route. So, after scheduling the procedure, off to the hospital, we went to have our little Hattori Hanzo’s hearing graded. He got an A. His hearing was fine.
Nathan was on the autism spectrum.
I went through a period where I questioned everything.
I felt sorry for myself, my husband and my girls.
How was their life going to be now?
How was my life going to be now?
Autism changed everything because I allowed it.
We stopped going out as a family.
My son stims, as do most kids with autism. That is a coping mechanism for him, but I understand how that can be embarrassing for a teenage girl. My 8-year-old doesn’t seem to mind, but she is a unique little ball of fire that enjoys causing a stir.
I was angry and depressed. I felt isolated and alone.
Nathan wasn’t sleeping, so we weren’t resting, and our home was a wreck.
What happened to normal?
Where did my life go?
We went from family to frenzy.
When Nathan wakes up he raids the kitchen like a Gremlin, so we were getting 3 am surprises like bags of sugar coating our kitchen floor, or toilet water flooding the bathroom. It was maddening. I felt like I was losing my mind. All we could do was wait on our Dr’s appointment.
Then something happened that changed my perspective, and turned me around.
I saw a post on Facebook about a little boy, about my son’s age, who had been so brave throughout his struggle with cancer but lost his life.
The post was written by his mother, who explained how she would do anything to have her son in her arms one more time. The mother had written a blog about their battle with cancer; it was gut wrenching. Her words were raw and real.
In the end, she lost her son. But I still had mine.
She inspired me to rise up and fight.
She reminded me that I’m not a quitter.
We live an hour from a University that hosts a small preschool for kids with autism, down syndrome and hearing impairments.
Through the grace of God, I was able to get Nathan enrolled.
For over a year now I have been driving him to the school every day for 3 hours. There he gets one on one therapy with speech graduate assistants.
In Mississippi, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which the gold standard treatment for autism, is hard to find, and when you do find it, you’re going to be wait listed. We are currently on two lists now both over 100 miles away.
I was able to find a therapist studying to be ABA certified, and she has worked with Nathan for over a year, 2-3 hours a week. She has worked wonders with him. I am so thankful for her and everything she has done for my son.
When Nathan began the preschool, he had very little eye contact and no words.
He was “nonverbal.” When he wanted something, he would find a way to climb to get it, even if that meant pulling a heavy chair across the house and climbing a dresser.
When he wanted something cold, he would throw a tantrum in front of the fridge.
We have had some throw-downs in front of that Kenmore, let me tell you. The doctors told me I could get him to speak if I held what he wanted in front of him and repeated the word until he said it.
I tried this method with milk, juice, yogurt, and cheese. It only worked with yogurt. One day we had our own little Mexican standoff over juice for 10 minutes.
Nobody got juice, but I didn’t quit.
I wasn’t about to stop believing in him.
After a year of preschool, Nathan can verbally identify over 70 objects and is using two-word phrases. (Example-“More Juice,” “Want Yogurt”).
His eye contact is just as good as my teenager’s, if not better!
I see a miracle in him every day.
I take him to our elementary school now when we get back from preschool, and he loves it!
The teachers are fantastic-I couldn’t ask for more.
He gives high 5’s and fist bumps like its his job.
Yesterday he told a stranger hi. I almost wet my pants I was so excited.
We have come so far.
A year has passed and so much has changed.
Our family has adjusted, we have locked the kitchen cabinets, and we are getting some sleep, thanks to some prescription meds from Nathan’s physician.
We are a work in progress, but who isn’t?
Autism changed my life, and I am happy it did.
We still struggle. We all have meltdowns. Nothing is perfect, but throughout this process I have seen the good in so many people around me, and I am grateful.
I am so thankful for the friends I have and the opportunities God has given me to help my son.
I understand the blessing that is the power to communicate through words. I used to take that for granted.
I am blessed with the opportunity to see the world through Nathan’s eyes.
I am blessed to be Nathan’s Mother.