If you see an orange….you know it’s an orange. If you see car…you know it’s a car. If you see a child who has autism…well that’s the thing. You probably will never know just by looking at them. Autism comes in many shapes and sizes. But for lack of better words, I’ll just use the term that you probably have heard before…”the spectrum”
You don’t have anything to worry about
That is the phrase I heard over and over again during my pregnancy when it came to “Twin A”. He was growing like normal. His head circumference and organs were not showing signs of anything alarming. “Twin B” (Genell) on the other hand was always on the radar. You can read more about her by clicking here. When I had the twins, they both spent some time in the NICU, but Twin A, who was later named Julius came home after only spending 14 days.
On their first birthday, Julius still had not said his first words. He did not take his first steps until he was 14 months. At 18 months, we started noticing some “weird” behavior. Not weird in a bad way, but things that just made us scratch our head a little. He would randomly flap his hands and he started doing this thing with his eyes where he would look out the corner of his eye and spin round and round. We noticed some developmental delays as well, but we were so focused on his sister, that we did not consider any of his delays to be a major concern.
When things are no longer unnoticed
During the early years of the twins, I was a stay at home mom and his twin sister received therapy at home. During one of her home sessions, I asked her therapist if the things that Julius was doing seemed a little strange. She let me know that I should consider getting a referral from his pediatrician and have him evaluated for therapy. So I did just that. Low and behold, after his evaluation, he was recommended to begin Occupational Therapy (OT).
He continued his OT and when he was 2 1/2 he had his full evaluation for autism. The evaluation seemed like forever, but it was a little over an hour. They pretty much watched him play with toys, but this allowed them to study his movements, repetition, and how well he responded to instruction. A few weeks later, the results came back and he was formally diagnosed with Autism.
Autism is not a bad diagnosis
Prior to his diagnosis, my knowledge of autism was pretty slim. I honestly was very ignorant to what it was. Based on the media, my assumption was “darn…he had vaccinations. I bet that did it to him”. And the other assumption was, kids with autism are the ones that yell and shout in the grocery store. It’s amazing how much your own child can teach you, because my understanding of autism was COMPLETELY WRONG!
There may be extremely tough days, but you also get those warm and personal days because as a parent to a child on the spectrum, sometimes you have to spend extra time making them comfortable.
It’s amazing the signs that they will show you. It’s just up to us a parents to recognize them. By the time Julius was 3 years old, he could count and read numbers from 1-100. He knew all of his shapes and colors…and could spell them too. He is 6 now, and nothing has changed. He still loves numbers and letters, so now that he is school age, we hone in on his “thing”. Julius has an IEP (Individualized Education Program), so I make sure I let the facilitator and meeting attendees know what his “thing” is as well. Although Julius has some communication problems, he excels in math and reading. So I urge you as parents to pay attention to those signs and learn what really drives your child. I incorporate numbers with everything. And I mean EV-ER-Y-THING. When it comes to letters, Julius has his own “sign language”. Anytime he asks a question, he forms his hands in the shape of the first letter of each word. Will I ever make him stop using his hands? Probably not. Because I know that it helps him communicate, so it’s up to people to learn how to talk to him and interact with him…and not look at him strange because of his hand gestures.
Autism has no limits. I don’t let his diagnosis limit him from enjoying his childhood. Although he has an IEP, we’re thankful that he is well enough to be in an inclusive classroom. Outside of the classroom, he played on his first soccer team last fall (Fall 2017), and has been registered to play Spring Soccer as well. Even though he excels in math and reading, it’s up to me to make sure his other skills are not limited. Soccer gives him the opportunity to play with other kids and also teaches the other kids that just because their teammate has autism, that does not limit him.
As a parent to a child with autism, you not only learn a lot from your child, but you also can be a positive influence to other children and families that might not fully understand what it means to be autistic. Each child “wears” that diagnosis differently.
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