Hello. My name is Penny and I am a single mother of a 5 year old with Autism. So first some statistics. Did you know that every year there are 1.5 million people born that will develop autism? 1 in every 50 children between 3 and 17 have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Boys are more likely to develop it than girls. Now I am going to tell you my story but first I want to stress that my son is my life and an amazing young man. Although I would wish an easier life for him, we have met some extraordinary people on our journey so far. At the age of two and a half my son went to daycare. The first I removed him from when I found him chewing on a staple. Second one when I heard him screaming from the front door and found out he had peed his mat because the teacher wouldn’t let him get up to go potty. She was too busy sitting at the table texting and ignoring my son. Needless to say after putting my son in the car with my mother I am no longer allowed on either of their establishments after what I had to say to them. So are daycare’s really equipped to handle special needs children when they can’t handle little tasks like that? That is what scares me. My son went to a third school and was there for a while when they pulled me aside and told me my son was too disruptive and I should have him checked for Autism. Yeah they pretty much kicked my son out for something he couldn’t control but they put me on the first stepping stone to helping my son.
I knew something wasn’t right when my son didn’t walk until he was one and a half and when he did he was so far up on his toes he looked like a ballerina. He didn’t talk till well over 3 and most of that was screaming. I found out that if a child is under 3 then they are to go to Babynet for testing. The information can be found at your local social services. If they are over 3 you go to the school board of the county you live in. After sitting with these ladies for 3 hours he was diagnosed. We had an appointment with a developmental doctor and after a 2 hour appointment she stated that his intelligence was way off the charts but his fine motor skills were far behind. When we visited the pediatric neuro psychiatrist he asked me something that I will now ask you. “Have you ever been sitting and reading or writing or anything else and had the urge you just had to get up? That is what an autistic child feels constantly. The inability to sit still or concentrate. This is also true for ADD and ADHD.” Next we had the long IEP meeting at the school he was going to go to. If you haven’t reached this step let me tell you this was the hardest for me. I didn’t really know what was involved and I am in the medical field. I was told in this 2 hour meeting everything my child wasn’t doing right. They pinpointed all his faults. Call me a baby if you want but I cried like one for the next few hours. I realized what this meant for my little man and the long road he was going to lead. Some of the signs for autism are delay in speech and motor abilities, flapping of the arms when running, inability to express themselves causing anger and outbursts, inability to sit or stand still for periods of time, sensory disorders, socially challenged, echolalia (repeating things they have heard), playing with things that are inappropriate (my son painted with his feces out of his diaper on his walls which I was told was common) and delayed learning.
But let me tell you there are some phenomenal people who work with special needs out there. After physical therapy my son now walks flat footed everywhere and even walks up and down the stairs the correct way. Now next let me tell you about his eating habits. He will only eat crunchy gritty things like chicken nuggets and fish sticks. No eggs, mashed potatoes, pudding or jello for him. After two years of occupational therapy my son ate spaghetti for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I was once told by his pediatrician don’t be surprised if he won’t eat ice cream but he will try to lick a brick because of the texture. After speech therapy my son now holds a conversation with me. When I come home or pick him up at school his first words are mommy guess what I did today. My son is still working on the melt downs. It is especially hard when he has one in a store or out in public and let me tell you that if a person doesn’t have a child with autism then they really don’t understand. You can read and study about it all day long but unless you live the experience you really don’t know. And all you ladies out there who shake your head at me or blow I am sorry you don’t have any children because if you did special needs or not you would understand.
There are many organizations that help families with autistic children. Some are Autism Speaks and the S.O.S. Autism Society but if you somehow can’t find them then go to your nearest health department and they will give you the information. I would recommend going to social services. I would also recommend looking up Temple Grandin. She is a phenomenal woman who is an American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University who was diagnosed with autism. She is an author of books that explain in first person being diagnosed and your outlook on life and there is also a movie. I stress to you no matter what you do let your child know constantly that you love them and you will always be there for them. Understand that you are their rock and this world is crazy enough without being special needs. And for all you parents even though it may feel like you are alone and the weight is on your shoulders there is help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to support groups and family and friends. The happier you can be and the more you can learn for your child the better their life will be. Many blessings and good luck. Who knows your child could be the next Albert Einstein (who was believed to be autistic).