“I am confident in my assessment that he has autism.”
It was a stinging felling to hear this. I can still remember that day vividly and feel all the emotions. It has been about a year and a half since this day. Although we received the official diagnosis, we didn’t receive anything else. There was no handbook, not even a few pamphlets. We were told to ‘connect to therapies’ but there was no real guidance on what to do next.
He now had a label and that was it.
We left his appointment with answers but no supports. Immediately, I began to research. I read every book related to autism, took part in way too many internet searches, and started to follow autism related social media pages from parents to therapists to educators and individuals that had been diagnosed. I read about therapies that were recommended and ones that weren’t. I learned about lifestyle changes and nutrition habits. Stories of struggles, stories of hope and stories of what was our new reality. I overwhelmed myself with information.
As an individual that went to school for Clinical Counseling and worked in the counseling field, I encouraged my clients to seek therapy for their needs.
As an individual that grew up in an old school Italian family, I learned to just worked through the situations and deal with feelings. Therapy wasn’t a thing that we did because we didn’t talk about the problems. We believed we could fix things and move on.
As a mom of a child that was newly diagnosed with Autism, I knew I needed to do something but didn’t know what step to take first. I also knew I couldn’t fix this.
We continued with speech and occupational therapy, and I really leaned into his providers to help figure out the next steps. We enrolled in special education pre-school within our district and connected to an ABA therapy program. We found aspects of our plan that worked and aspects of our plan that didn’t. We tried some popular techniques of support for my son and again, some worked and some didn’t. However, we did learn that therapies didn’t need to be something scary.
When plans didn’t work, we created our own that worked for my son, his abilities, and his strengths. Therapies didn’t have to be so rigid and by the book. They could be fun and exciting for him. We incorporated play techniques with my son’s favorite activities in all his therapies. We carried those techniques over to our day-to-day activities within in our home. Some of those plans immediately took shape for him and others took time. Each was a steppingstone for him to build upon his future.
As I think back to a year and a half ago, I remember being scared, unsure and stressed. I wish I could tell the person that I was back then to just take a moment, breath and trust your gut. There will be times that that are going to be hard……like really hard. There are also times that are going to be so special and so rewarding. It is those moments that as parents of children with additional needs we celebrate beyond measure.
I’ve learned that there is no specific plan for children on the spectrum because no child on the spectrum is the same. Supports that my son needs are different then the supports of the children in his class and therapies. Each child has their own unique qualities that will allow them to grow to within their own abilities. I wasn’t given a handbook because we needed to create our own. This year has taught me to find what worked for my child to create his own story.