AUTISM is a journey I never expected, but I sure do love my tour guide.Autism Works
Twelve years ago, we were thrilled to find out that I was pregnant again with my second child. My husband and I planned to have a second child with a 4-year gap to my first daughter. That thrilling feeling magnified after 5 months of being pregnant when we had the result of my ultrasound that we will be having a baby boy. Everybody in the family was delighted as well since, at my side of the family, we were not blessed with a brother and as for my husband’s side, he will be my parents-in-law’s first grandson.
Fast forward 4 years after I gave birth, we noticed that my son’s development is quite behind in comparison to my daughter’s when she was at that age. He’s less responsive, he utters only a few words and mostly cries when he’s asking for something. During a routine well-baby appointment with our Pediatrician, we mentioned these observations to him and he immediately recommended that we consult a Developmental Pediatrician. After almost 6 months of waiting for our appointment, our DevPed talked to us and to my son to gauge his intellectual quotient, emotional quotient, and motor skills. After an hour of one-on-one with my son, she then turned to us and carefully told us what she observed and finally dropped the bomb, “YOUR SON HAS AUTISM.”
Baffled and overwhelmed by these 4 words. A lot came to mind. What is autism? Is it an illness? Is there a cure? What caused this? But ultimately, the questions that lingered to mind was, “Why us? Why my son?” One thing is for sure, it is NEVER easy to learn that someone you love has serious health or developmental condition.
Before I proceed, what do we primarily need to know about Autism?
Autism is defined as:
- a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.
- having a certain set of behaviors
- a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees.
- having no known single cause at the moment
How do we know if our child has autism?
Here are some early signs that your child may have autism:
- Speaks later than typical or not speaking at all (non-verbal)
- Repetition in language or movement (repeating the same word or sounds, hand flapping, or any repeated movement)
- Atypical nonverbal communication (avoiding eye contact, giving few/odd facial expressions, abnormal body posturing, or having a monotone when talking)
- Prefers solitary or parallel play rather than engaging or interactive play with other children
- Extremely distressed by changes, including new foods or changes in schedule and certain sound range
- Strong, persistent interest on a specific topic, part of a toy, or item
- Inappropriate social interaction
- Some may have self-abusive behaviors
Having read articles about what autism is and how to know if your child has autism, we also read about how to deal with Autism. Early diagnosis helps a person receive the support and services that they need, which can lead to a quality life filled with opportunity. These early interventions are vital to our child’s development for him to live and thrive regardless of his condition. But just as there is no one symptom or behavior that identifies people with autism, there is no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum. The treatment plan should come from a thorough evaluation of child’s strengths and weaknesses conducted by a Developmental Pediatrician.
Here are some therapies and interventions a Person with Autism (PWA) can use which my son undergone as part of his intervention:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA), Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) and Sensory Integration
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy (OT)
- Behavioral Therapy such as Social Skills Class, Play Therapy, etc
After months of reading and researching and finally realizing that we need to act now and disregard our feeling of denial to our child’s situation, we seek therapies as advised by our DevPed during her initial assessment back in 2011. My son initially did Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy and Occupational Therapy at the same time. After only a month of therapies, my son went from non-verbal to non-stop talking (we also found out that his language of communication is restricted to English and not our native language which is Filipino); from struggling in his gross motor and fine motor skills to writing legibly and solving a 100-pc picture puzzle in a breeze. He also developed a love for reading especially about bugs and insects, trains engines, and Science books.
During our next appointment with the DevPed, she was surprised by all the development and milestones that my child achieved. She later recommended that my son continue a different kind of therapy and that he be enrolled in a school that offers a Special Education program to customize a learning program for him and that he will enjoy the learning process without feeling stressed or anxious which might eventually lead to regression.
True enough, my child thrived and he graduated from his primary education with the rest of the regular students. The school owner/director even told us that they would recommend my son to be included in the intermediate education under the Partial Mainstreaming program.
Nine years after he was diagnosed, although new struggles and difficulties came along with his growth and development (physically, emotionally, and mentally). There were a lot of things that he was able to overcome and won over like his sensory problems, he’s becoming more sociable and becoming a little bit more independent in some (not all yet) areas of learnings, he’s now open in learning more about life skills such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, etc. And best of all, he just graduated from Grade 6 Class of 2020 last June 30, 2020.
Indeed, you can never have a normal child if he’s diagnosed with Autism, for it is a lifetime condition he and the family must live by. The struggle here really is not how to treat nor cure him, not finding the best therapy for him, nor what course he’s going to take in college or if he will ever go to college. The main struggle here is how, as a parent, will you be able to help, guide and nurture your child and prepare him to a life where he could manage without you by his side; to prepare him to survive life under so many unpleasant circumstances that may arise, and to help him find a path that will lead him to happiness.
With all these in mind, I secretly prays and wishes these things for him:
- That he will not ever experience bullying of any type which I know is any parent’s fear for their children and he will never regress when faced to life’s challenges
- That he’ll be able to finish formal/technical/vocational studies of his liking and carry on with his life and be able to survive and tend for himsel
- That he’ll have life-long friends who will understand him and accept his uniqueness and weaknesses. A go-to-person who will not judge him with his atypical choices in life
- That he’ll have a special relationship, if not a spouse, later in life who will love him despite his condition and whom he also loves so they will both be happy
- That he will love a home (and a happy one) where he will feel safe and loved by whoever he’s living with.
- That he will have the best care if he feels ill and needs hospitalization
- That he will be happy and content with his choices in life
- Lastly, that he’ll grow into a fine man who fears and serves the Lord.
BY: KATHRYN YCAZA