Monday, April 7, 2008

How I Got To Know Autism

Although I try to keep my blog a fun and hopefully interesting place to visit, I feel it's important to acknowledge Autism Awareness month. Autism was something I was barely aware of until it did a sneak attack on our family. My son was diagnosed just after the age of 3.

Like many parents, I thought my son's delayed speech was just due to his being a boy or maybe he just wasn't going to be a big talker. When he wasn't talking by age 3 though, we decided to get his hearing checked. When his hearing was found to be fine, we got him into speech therapy. After a few months, he was talking a little, but something still didn't seem right.

My husband and I decided to get our son evaluated at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, just to see what might be going on, but not suspecting anything serious. Our son did not do well during the evaluation. At the end, the psychologist gave us her results. There it was. A diagnosis I thought I'd never hear. PDD-NOS. All my parenting experience and all my education in psychology didn't even take the edge off hearing that diagnosis. I had no idea what Autism really was and what it meant. I had never met an autistic child and never paid much mind to the stories about it on the news. And I was happy in my ignorance until that day.

For a few weeks after the diagnosis, my husband and I were in shock but we kept trying to educate ourselves and finding the best options for treatment for our son. It was a maze of confusion, but we found some great people to help us through. And thank God we live here in Pennsylvania. The services are numerous and all funded by the state. I will be forever grateful. But I know other families in other states are not as blessed. The stories I've heard and read are astounding. Parents having to go as far as to mortgage their house just to get their child treatment. The stress between the diagnosis, treatment, and cost would be unbelievable on a family.

Fast forward a year, give or take. After hours upon hours of wraparound services in our home, speech and OT therapy, Wonderkids social groups, pre-school, and special GF/CF doctors and diet, our son 4 1/2 year old is a completely different kid! He blends in at pre-school so well that other parents say they can't tell he has a diagnosis. He knows his colors, can count to 40, can spell some words, read some words, play on the computer by himself, and laugh and play with other kids. He is not out of the woods yet, but there is hope that one day he won't need therapy and a GF/CF diet anymore and that he can function on his own. That will be a happy day indeed!

But I know plenty of parents who have children with more severe Autism. They need help, so much help. If even one more person out there is better informed and can speak out, that is a positive move towards getting kids with autism what they need.

Please learn what you can and do what you can to make a difference. No action is too small or insignificant.


CountryDew said...

Wow. What a heartfelt post. I am glad your son is doing better. This is a disease that deserves much study. I am fairly convinced it is environmentally caused but I'm not a scientist or doctor (or even a mother). I cannot imagine your heartache over this.

lil' miss martha stewart said...

i'm glad that you are letting others know about your experience with autism. we have a little boy at our church who is autistic.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Thank you countrydew and lil' miss for your kind comments! I was a little nervous putting myself out there like that, but the need is just so great out there how could I not?