Being a military spouse and mom comes with its own set of trials.
When you add into that the struggle of realizing that something is not quite as it should be with your children, that’s a completely new nightmare.
Heather S. talks the reality of facing what is set before us, with understanding and grace-grace not only for our children, but for ourselves when faced with this challenge.
My oldest son was 2 1⁄2 and our daughter was 1 1⁄2 when we found out that we were having a third baby.
We were excited, but very surprised, to be expecting again. There was only one big complication – I was on several medications that I had not been on during my previous pregnancies. Because the medications were class C, there was no information available as to the possible affects they would have on the baby.
We talked to the doctors, we talked to the pharmacists, we prayed, we discussed, and then we decided that I would stay on the medications to maintain my physical health and we would face any ramifications with open hearts.
My youngest son was born premature, had a few minor struggles but was able to come home after 7 days in the NICU. He was a good baby that loved to snuggle, sleep and eat. He hit every gross motor milestone really early – as in he could climb the bunk bed ladder at 9 months old!!!!
He was funny and expressive but he did not talk. He had problems with his ears and several surgeries to fix them but he still was a late talker. His fine motor skills were behind as well, but boy could he do the signs for his favorite things when he wanted them.
As he got a little older, we started early intervention for speech. Then, we moved on to occupational therapy at the recommendation of his speech therapist. In all the testing, we learned that he had fine motor delays, an expressive language delay, Sensory Processing Disorder, and ADHD. We got hooked up with our amazing OT’s, SLP’s and he made incredible progress, but something just wasn’t right. He repeated first grade in public school and his teacher was incredibly awesome at adapting assignments and following his IEP. He got support from the resource team and was doing really well in school, but still something just wasn’t right.
My quirky, funny, bouncing baby boy had a hard time focusing: couldn’t handle loud noises, couldn’t be in a crowd without anxiety, and preferred to play on his own than play with his peers.
Something was definitely not right.
I took him for some testing and he did, indeed, fall on the spectrum. I felt like I was kicked in the gut. Had I done this by taking the medication while I was pregnant? Was there a genetic component? Did something happen because he was a preemie? What? What did I do to cause this to my baby?
It’s taken my 5 years to realize that we will probably never know what caused his autism and that we can’t change WHO my baby is.
He is a wonderful boy, almost 10 years old now. He loves legos, small stuffed animals, minecraft video games, 80’s music and digging in the sand. He also happens to fall on the autism spectrum.
Just like any other medical condition, we manage “the symptoms” of autism. Instead of public school, we now homeschool. We work around the food aversions, avoid loud situations, use auditory clues to help with social graces and attend speech therapy regularly.
Some people may think that we coddle or cater to his whims a little too much, but I think of it like this:
When someone gets cancer, you treat the symptoms to get better.
When someone has MS, you treat the symptoms to maintain a lifestyle.
Autism is no different. Every family manages autism differently because every child on the spectrum IS different.
My oldest son was also diagnosed with mild ASD a few years ago. My boys have lots and lots in common, but they have just as many differences where their autism is concerned. This just solidifies my belief that they only thing we can say for certain about all kids with autism is that they are all different.
So, our Autism Journey is far from over, but with the support of wonderful therapists, family, friends and the community, we are able to buckle up for the road that lies ahead.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to our story and I’d like to leave you with this quote from Nick Gonzalez,
“Autism: Same road, same bricks, different view.”