It is critical sometimes to stop and observe where we are at and to notice how H is growing and developing. The changes are small and incremental (though at times these little things can seem HUGE to us) and might otherwise go unnoticed or unappreciated. These stop moments are critical for planning the next goals for H and for celebrating accomplishments.
Sometimes I have to look back to be able to see where I have been. Like steps on a frosty-February-footbridge, it is not until after I have made my way across that I can look back and say, Ahhh… yes… That is the way I came.
H will be 13 this year, but we began to investigate and have concerns about his development when he was 2. He initially presented with speech and language concerns, and some sensory integration issues, and we went through the routine tests to rule out hearing difficulties. At 3 H had his first speech and language evaluation. By the time he was 4, and we were filling in some of the gaps in his language development, we could see that there was more going on and we sought a referral to a pediatrician, who supported our Autism query. At this point H was referred to Children’s Hospital for a multidisciplinary evaluation and the almost one year wait began. The process eventually included evaluations and interviews by an OT (occupational therapist), infant psychiatrist, educational psychologist, and SLP. At the same time we had the services of a program called Supportive Childcare for H’s preschool, and we delayed his entry into school as he was a fall baby and we felt he would benefit from an additional full year of preschool. We thought it was far more helpful for him to be the oldest child in his class by five weeks, rather than the youngest by 11 months. We also felt strongly that we wanted to have supports for his challenges in place prior to him beginning kindergarten – this meant essentially, having completed the diagnostic process. By the time he was 5 H had been subjected to 4 SLP evaluations, and a myriad of other tests and we had filled out countless forms and observations, etc. He was diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) a few months before he turned 6. None of these things just landed upon our doorstep as services for our son: each one had to be sought out and advocated for or, at the very least, required a number of meetings, wait-lists, and/or endless phone calls or emails.
It is easy to look at our boy now and forget some of the struggles we have faced. It is easy to block out that the only time I ever took him to the mall was at Christmas to see Santa, and this was made obvious to me when he asked to see Santa at the mall in the middle of the summer. H thought the Jolly Old Soul was there year round – and had seen no evidence to prove otherwise.
It is important to look back, to take account, and to consider how far our son has come. It is important to consider and celebrate the accomplishments and appreciate the thousands of hours that H and our team have put into supporting the development of his language and processing skills, his reading and writing skills, his social understanding, his self-regulation strategies, awareness and skills, and … (the list is long). This child has worked so hard to be where he is, and with the love and support of our family and friends and interventionists and therapists and neighbours and daycare providers and Community Living Services and therapeutic riding and doctor and play therapist and speech and language pathologist and school teachers and education assistants and pediatrician and cub scout leaders and support groups and social play groups and even our dog, he has made amazing developments.
If you don’t look back – you might take for granted how far you’ve come…
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)