In the beginning....there were no words. This sentence pretty much sums up anything that could be said about the first three years of my son's life. To fully grasp our lives today, we have to take an epic journey down memory lane.....don't forget to buckle up ladies and gentlemen, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!
I was diagnosed with infertility June 2003. After undergoing more tests and evaluations than I personally care to recall at the moment, I found myself in a stark, cold, white room with an equally cold, stark doctor telling me that my chances of natural conception were so close to impossible, that only God himself could make it happen. Imagine his surprise when I walked in unannounced a little over a year later showing off the most beautiful ultrasound photo of a tiny little blob the world has ever seen!
I had an uneventful pregnancy until 35 weeks gestation. The night before I hit the 35wk mark at 11:30pm a spider fell rather dramatically onto my leg. Insert screams of panic and a jump off the couch here. I woke up around 5:30 am cold...and wet. Apparently my water broke. Of course we were not ready, and clueless as to what was happening. It took us from 5:30am until nearly 8am to get to the hospital only 15mins away. Long story short, I wasn't in labor, my water had just broken. 4 and half hours of pitocin and 2 pushes later (With no pain meds thank you very much) my son was born.
He was a good baby. He was just very tiny. He didn't cry much at first, and he had a hard time latching on to nurse....but he eventually got the hang of both crying AND latching. He loved to stare at patterns and things in motion. Ceiling fans and the bars on his infant swing were his favorites. By 6 months old he was spinning on all fours so hard and so fast he could do an entire rotation and never touch the floor! By 12 months he was pacing back and forth, shaking his head, banging his head until he left bruises, and flapping his arms and hands. He never lost words because he never gained them in the first place. He did lose foods due to a rising sensitivity to textures.
By 14 months old he began early intervention services to treat profound development delays that were thought to have been a condition of his earlier than expected birth. By 2 years 2 months and 1 day old he had a diagnosis of severe autism. We were told he would never speak, never show true emotion, never say "Mommy"....never say "I love you," ....so many nevers.
I dropped out of school. I was a biology major at Marshall University. I couldn't keep up with his health (a whacky immune system that would later be diagnosed) and his hours upon hours of therapy AND school. I worked with his Birth to Three team, and I spent hours a day (12-14 hours each day) working with him myself. I learned he COULD speak, he just couldn't speak English. He spoke his own language. He would say the same things each time, but they sounded like gibberish. For example, "water" was "Ohtu." He also had echolalia so he repeated most everything he heard. I used his gift of mimic and his own language to more or less teach him English and force him to speak.
I first noticed he could repeat any melody he heard, so I began to communicate to him through sing-song melodies. His name had a tune, and a variety of basic commands and phrases had their own tunes as well. I eventually began to put words with these little melodies, then dropped the melodies all together. After that it was a matter of repeating what he said in HIS language, then repeating it in English. AFter that, when he could say "our" words, I would have him repeat the same thing five different ways. "Can I have a drink? Drink, please? I need a drink? Please get me a drink? I'm thirst?" And with each and everything I said to him I repeated his name. By the time he was 4 he was speaking in short 3-5 word sentences. By the time he was 4 and 1/2 he had a "normal" vocabulary, and by the time he was six he was well above age level for both expressive and receptive communication.
Today, at 9 I hear "I love you, Mommy" multiple times a day, each and every day. And every time it is with true, heart felt emotion! My son, who was diagnosed with severe autism, beat the autism and came back through the autism window. It took a LOT of hard work, but he did it!
Today, I am a college graduate and he is a homeschooled 4th grader. He is a tested and true genius. This blog will hopefully not only inspire others who are facing the diagnosis of Autism in their lives, but also help those who choose to homeschool their typical and non-typical children.