High Functioning Autism & Early Intervention
Our Journey with High Functioning Autism
Many of you know that my oldest Noah is diagnosed high-functioning autism. Noah is not your typical textbook case. Many times people ask, “Are you sure he has autism?” and to that I reply “No, I just want him to have it!”. Actually I don’t, I do however do my best to explain that through early intervention he has come so very far.
I am a huge advocate for early intervention!! I never went through any kind of denial with him and I will pat my myself on the back for that one thing I got right in this world! There is a very narrow window in which you can make a huge difference in their development and obviously the earlier the better. Even if you are wrong and believe me I would have given anything to have been wrong, it never hurts anything.
The most often asked question is “How did you know? or What were the signs?” Noah mostly lacked in speech development. He spoke mainly in what the speech and language world calls “jargon”.
Jargon, by definition, is special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.
I think he understood what he was saying many times looking back. Often we could make out a word or two that he would slip in. He really was just the sweetest little thing!!
After about 8 months of speech therapy, Noah said “mama” for the first time. It was in February of 2009, he was 2 and a half years old.
Noah didn’t do a lot of the things you may hear on the television associated with autism. He did not do the hand flapping, he did play with toys in different ways compared to other children (Spinning wheels, lining up all toys, etc.), he did not have trouble with eye contact early on or facial expressions. Noah was actually a very good baby. Hindsight, almost too good, but who worries about a baby who is too good? I mean he still cried and things of that nature. Keep in mind too that I found out I was pregnant with Wyatt when Noah was 5-months-old, so that makes 14 months between the two! My point being, those days were a bit of a blur to say the least.
At Noah’s 18-month check up I said something to his pediatrician and he advised me to contact TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention Services) which I did. TEIS is a great service!!! For those of you who do not know about this service, Tennessee’s Early Intervention System is a voluntary educational program for families, through age two, with disabilities or developmental delays. These ladies were a life saver some days!! Just fantastic people!
On the day your child turns 3-years-old, he or she is eligible through the school system to start PreK in your county. From there Noah attended an inclusion based PreK, that was top-notch, at Upperman High School. (Love those people!!) All of this laid the groundwork for Noah to function in a general classroom where he does fantastic. Not to make it sound simple because it isn’t that black and white, but like anything it takes a lot of behind the scenes work (IEP’s, emails, doctor visits, etc.) but I won’t bore you with all that!!
All this being said with our new addition to the family with JP this year has been such a joy! But, as I stated before, you worry. Even when it isn’t validated. Let’s face it, mother’s worry!! One of my favorite quotes in the world is this one:
“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”
You watch like a hawk every milestone to make sure they are developing “normal”. Matthew asked me the other day if I worried about JP and his language. I responded with “Every second of every day”. I can’t help it! He seems to be developing fine, but it’s scary. (I thought it was a stupid question!!)
With Wyatt, I am thankful that I didn’t have to worry because Noah was so young I didn’t know. Then, when I did, it became exhausting. Mind over matter was all it came down to with me. Staying at home with them, although stressful, was a blessing. I was able to take them to speech therapy a few days a week and schedule home visits with TEIS. Another thing that worked well for me was hiring a girl from our local college who did the equivalent of what they call “floor time”. She would play games outside or do a puzzle with him just to get him to interact. I obviously could do this however, he often worked better with her than me as kids often do. That was a much cheaper type of therapy than paying for OT (Occupational Therapy) Speech Therapy, or ABA Therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis). Our insurance did not cover mental health and, unfortunately, that is what autism is classified under.
We are fortunate to live in an area with a great special needs community with tremendous teachers both special ed and regular classroom. However, I believe people often make the mistake of relying on the school system alone for therapies and behavioral issues and I personally don’t believe that is enough. But, let’s face it that isn’t just in the special needs families. It’s across the board.
I am happy to report to all 7 of my readers that JP started saying “mama” this week!! I couldn’t be more excited!!! And last night at dinner he repeated after me when I said “uh-oh”. It is the sweetest thing in this world!!!
Thought this was enlightening for all parents!