This guest blog post is so very near and dear to my heart. I’m sharing a discussion I had with daughter-in-law, Michelle, about how she’s learned to speak up and advocate for her son who is autistic. It’s my desire to help bring awareness to the challenges of raising an autistic child.
“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” – Heather Cortez
You’re in the middle of a crowded grocery store and a child is throwing what appears to be a temper tantrum, please don’t be quick to judge it might just be the child is autistic. When you stop and look a little closer maybe you notice the suttle signs like the child is rocking or touching their ears. Often an invisible disorder on the outside, physically the child appears to look just like everyone else so people can’t understand the little idiosyncrasies. Please pull up a chair and get a glimpse at what it’s like to have a child with autism and how you can help.
Does Our Child Have Autism? How I discovered our son had autism and what I did to take action.
At 2 years old I took my son the pediatrician because he wasn’t speaking yet and it concerned me. Unfortunately, the pediatrician wasn’t very helpful he told to wait six months and bring him back for a re-evaluation. With the doctors ill advice I started to think it might be a social issue so we put him in daycare in hopes that a new environment would make things better. The change of pace wasn’t helping with his speech delay or socialization skills. But there was a woman in the daycare program that had a therapist visit the class weekly for her child. The therapist began to notice traits about my son and approached the school administration suggesting early intervention testing. Shortly after the early intervention program provided the school with all of the information about the testing and that’s how my journey began. If it wasn’t for the mom that brought in the therapist who spoke up; my son’s diagnosis could have been missed even longer.
Autism – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
A specialist from the early intervention team came to my home to evaluate our son. They performed a series of tests to evaluate our son. One of the questions they asked me was what prompted me to seek help and testing for my son. I explained that at my son’s two year wellness appointment with pediatrician I mentioned my concern that he wasn’t talking yet. At that time the doctor implied that my parenting skills were the cause. He implied I had treated him like a baby. The early intervention program asked me if my doctor ever mentioned early intervention as an option and sadly they hadn’t. The intervention specialist was very frustrated with the doctor’s response. As specialists and child advocates they understand not every doctor has the training to recognize autism or special needs but it is important that pediatricians become better acquainted and equipped to help families with diagnosis and next steps. The hope is that more doctors will take an interest in learning to recognize the traits and direct parents for testing early on.
What Autism Therapy Method has helped my Son?
My son responds to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach. Some autistic children do things like rocking, touching their ear repeatedly or have difficulty paying attention or completing a task from beginning to end. This program can help break them of these behaviors (link to more info on this therapy). Other kids respond to DIR/Floortime, and RDI Treatments (link to more info on this therapy). It depends on severity of disability of autism and what your child responds to best.
As a Parent, I Am My Son’s Autism Advocate and Voice
I recently had board of Board of Education for my son’s school. They were updating parents on changes to the disability program for the children in the elementary school my son attends. This was an immediate red flag to me since there had already been too many changes and turnover of programs, teachers and administration during the past few years.
In September of 2010, my son entered the disability program after attending school for three years. This was a difficult transition to say the least. He encountered daily challenges due to transitions, tantrums and other issues related to the autistic spectrum. With the support of the teachers/aides in this program, he was able to successfully overcome many obstacles he faced in his daily life.
My son’s teacher started the existing disability program. In my opinion she is underpaid but even so she remains dedicated to the cause and absolutely loves the children in the program. Some parents may be satisfied with status quo, but that’s simply not good enough for my son. As a parent you have to dig deeper. In my journey I’ve learned how important it is to engage the community. I want to encourage others to make friends with teachers and parents in your school because at times they will be your biggest support system. We need to equip ourselves whether its networking with other parents and specialists, reading books and websites related to the child’s disability and educating ourselves on how to become strong advocates for our children especially those with disabilities.
The children in this program have made such positive and great strides. This program has exceeded our expectations and we know the reason it has is clearly due to the professionalism and dedication of this teacher and the support staff.
In May I attended the school board meeting. When they opened the floor to the community, I immediately raised my hand. I remember my heart was beating so hard it felt like it was going to leap out of my chest. I stated my name and address and my issue about the disability program on behalf of my son and I instantly started crying. After all I was talking on behalf of my son who can’t speak for himself. I stated my concerns about the changes in the disability program.
I asked the board to reconsider making changes or cuts in the disability program. Unless you yourself have a child with a disability how could you possibly understand the reasoning behind my plea? I understand intellectually there are many educated well trained teachers but to a child with a disability going through change is very difficult.
I’ll leave you with important advice that serves me well … Autism requires a holistic approach of techniques, therapy and a big support system.
Getting the Whole Family Involved in Giving Back – Walk Now for Autism Speaks
As a family we decided to participate in the 2011 Walk Now for Autism Speaks and our Team Joey oey Raised $895.00.
Autism Speaks is a signature fundraising event which brings together hundreds of thousands of participants annually across the United States and Canada with a common goal of supporting Autism Speaks.
The Autism Speaks goal is to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders.
They’re dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. They’re committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals. Working together we will find the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Find an Autism Speaks Facebook community near you: http://www.autismspeaks.org/walk_events/facebook_community_pages.php.
Find local autism resources and providers in our online resource guide: http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/fsdb/search.php.
For those who want to learn more about autism, browse the latest books, magazine articles, educational manuals, software, and much more, visit our Resource Library: http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/resources/index.php#library.
If you would like to write to Michelle with questions please send your letters to me email@example.com with subject line “Questions for Michelle”.
With love and God’s Blessings,
Email Me: firstname.lastname@example.org
E-mail the techie behind the Chat With Dee Dee (Blog, Facebook & Twitter pages) who happens to be my daughter.