Let me take you back a little over a year ago. I had an almost three year old, who was just diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It wasn’t a complete surprise. I knew my little guy was probably on the spectrum before his first birthday. Still not easy to finally hear those words. And when you read that never ending diagnosis on that tiny novel of papers you are given, it hurts.
But I actually kind of wanted the diagnosis. Maybe not wanted, because nobody wants this life for their child. But it is what it is, and I knew we had to do everything to give Noah the best tools to be successful in our world. So I needed that diagnosis. I needed help on how to raise my son. I needed ABA therapy.
We had done Early On and the private OT and PT. And the play therapy and Gymboree social groups. All helped us along the way, but none of it was quite enough for my son. We were losing more and more control. Feeling more isolated. Fearing the future and unknowns.
At the time, I couldn’t speak to my son without him getting upset. I would hide and duck as I walked from room to room—because if he saw me he would immediately tantrum. Not that anything was even wrong. Just seeing me, meant he needed something. I still have anxiety from those years—although now, I walk freely in my home.
We couldn’t get our two year old to cooperate, or interact with us more than just tickles and rough housing. Which was great, but anything else we tried—puzzles, games, toys, reading books—Noah would either cry or just simply walk away. He didn’t have interest in any of it. He really only wanted to spin in circles, and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
We barely had any communication at the time either. Noah didn’t really respond to PECS, and he would just grab our hand and pull us into different rooms. But after that it was a guessing game as to what he wanted. That was hard.
Noah wasn’t so much stuck in his own world, but he wasn’t flexible with anything. Everything that didn’t go his way—like a diaper change, or mom can’t sit here right now—was like the end of the world to him. Later, it became self-injurious behavior end of the world.
Noah had to learn how to learn. How to be present. How to focus. How to be calm. He had to learn not everything is so aversive. And with a little help and a whole lotta love—he is doing these things and thriving in a way I didn’t know was possible.
My son sits. At a desk. For several minutes at a time. He pays attention. He matches colors, shapes, and letters. He is beginning to imitate sounds. Who knew that was even possible?! Because for almost four years anything I asked of Noah, was a fight. Now, he imitates me. We do the motions to nursery rhymes together. He is learning to follow directions. I can finally talk to him, ask him questions and he will look me in the eyes and understand me. He doesn’t always like what I have to say—that’s just a stubborn almost four old. But more than not he listens and follows through.
My son learned to point from therapy, and it has been one of the most life changing things to happen for us. Pointing is communication 101. I wasn’t even aware how much you can communicate with just a point, until my son did. It also helped him to start using an AAC device. Without that isolated point, he wouldn’t be starting to request shows and food independently. Expanding that communication has always been our number one goal, and it’s now happening.
Noah is learning to play. Huh? Play? Isn’t ABA just sitting at a table following command after command? Absolutely, not. The playing isn’t always perfect and appropriate, but he is trying. And we’re learning what works for Noah. It’s sometimes an adapt as you go process, and you have to be flexible and open to change or new ideas. These are the things I needed to learn as a parent on this journey, and I have.
I work very closely with our team and that’s why I believe Noah has been so successful. ABA is not a—“here take my kid and send them back when they’re ready” therapy. As a parent it is my responsibility to learn the tools that are working for Noah so that we can be successful in our home. And I’ve learned so much. About positive reinforcements and how to read my child better than I ever thought possible. Our therapists are like our second family. Noah is not just a case to them. They want him to be the best he can be, and they want our family to be the best we can be.
My son is so happy. The happiest he has ever been. We as a family are the happiest we have ever been. We are learning how to raise our one of a kind son with all the bumps and turns that arise along the way. And for that, I am forever grateful.