April is Autism Awareness Month and I have to take a minute to talk about our sweet boy and his journey.
Three years ago I knew very little about autism. We didn’t know that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, boys are 4 times as likely to have it and early intervention is key. I had all the typical assumptions that autism was a disorder where the child made no eye contact, had melt downs, non social, not affectionate, and a child locked inside themselves. The truth is that autism can present itself differently in every child diagnosed. We have learned Noah is all about eye contact, has very few melt downs, is very social, extremely affectionate, and is not locked inside himself at all. But we did learn that he had many of the classic early signs of autism.
Noah was a happy and healthy baby. He was developmentally on track and met all of the milestones that each baby achieves in the first year. When it came time for his first words we waited patiently but they never came. He babbled a lot but still no words. This was our first sign that something was wrong but just assumed that he would just start talking in his own time. Our next sign was that he did not answer to his name.We thought that he was just ignoring us and being stubborn. At one point we even thought that he might have a hearing deficit. Then our next sign was when we noticed he wasn’t playing with toys like other kids his age he was fixated on lining them up and organizing them by color or size. He wouldn’t point to anything he wanted. He wouldn’t mimic our sounds or facial expressions. He couldn’t understand simple directions and it would always upset him when he couldn’t do what we were asking of him. Large crowds and loud environments seem to overwhelm him. He loved to dump everything he could get his hands on: cups of water, baskets of clothes, boxes of toys, etc. He would him or sing the tune over and over again to songs he had heard on movies.
At his 2 year check up my heart sank as we answered no over and over again to the questions that they asked about what he was able to do and say. Realizing just how far behind he was developmentally. I remember crying as we left his appointment thinking this was something that I could have prevented or done more as a mom to help him. But the truth is that there is nothing I could have done. We were referred to our states early intervention program. They came to our home to evaluate him and determined that he had significant development and speech delays. He also had sensory processing problems. We began speech, occupational, and developmental therapy. We slowly started seeing progress. Two months before his 3rd birthday we finally received his official diagnosis of autism.
They strongly encouraged us to put him in blended pre-K class at our local elementary school. As hard as that was we did it and he has just bloomed since then. He is talking more and more. He knows his colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. He can identify body parts and animals. He still struggles with expressive and receptive language but we are making progress. He can tell us when he wants to eat or wants a drink now but has trouble telling us other things that he wants or needs. If he has injured himself somehow he cannot tell you what hurts or where he is hurting. He is getting better at understanding directions and things that we are asking of him but that is still a daily struggle.
Being a parent of a child with special needs is something I never imagined I would experience but here we are. It’s our new normal. We celebrate all of his progress and all of his successes no matter how small they may be. We don’t take for granted that he is such a loving and sweet soul. We adore him and would never change him.
We are beyond thrilled with his progress and know the reason he is doing so well is because of early intervention! I can’t say enough to parents about seeking answers when you see red flags. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for our little guy! We know he’s going to do great things and continue to teach us about the beauties of autism!
***He still sings all the time. He loves singing his ABC’s, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and many other nursery rhymes. I’ve added a few short videos of him singing and talking.