Saturday, March 24, 2018

In the three years post autism diagnosis

Three years.

Three years since we sat in that sterile white neurologists office with our shrieking toddler in the corner of the room throwing anything he could get his hands on all the while banging his head on the floor and wall.

Three years since I attempted to keep a calm demeanor, even while hot tears streamed down my face and that same cold neurologist told us, matter of factly and without any type of emotion, that our sweet and precious 16.5 month little boy had moderate to severe autism. 

Three years ago, we thought that our life was falling apart right at our feet.

As we walked out of that office into the warm and radiant March sunshine, the happiness and liveliness of our life suddenly turned dreary and dark and as parents, we were filled with despair and sadness. Our life was now separated in two - the "before" autism diagnosis and the "after" autism diagnosis.

Three years of attempting to maneuver through this new life that is autism. Three years of intensive and full time ABA therapy. Three years of devoting ourselves and our lives to making sure that our son had the best intervention and chance at life possible. Three years of extraordinary ups and dreadfull downs and all of life's little in betweens. 

If you would have asked me in those early days and months post diagnosis if we would have had made it to this point in our journey three years later (completely unscathed) I would have laughed uncomfortably, poured myself a large glass of wine, and cried alone in my dark bedroom, the only place I was able to find even a little bit of solace at times.

But, here we are.

Three years of realizing that our life wasn't actually over, that it was just beginning, in a new and different way. 

My heart breaks and I'm honestly embarrassed and sad when I think of how hopeless and bleak I felt about our life post autism diagnosis. It's definitely not a feeling I'm proud of or want to willingly admit, but if I'm being honest, that diagnosis was a punch to the gut as a first time parent and mother.

But, I can't even begin to express how grateful and thankful we are for our early diagnosis which led us to some of the most phenomenal therapy possible for children with autism spectrum disorder. ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) isn't the perfect fit for every family. But, for us, ABA therapy has been LIFE CHANGING. 

Our ABA therapists go above and beyond, day in and day out. They have helped us to be able to better manage Colton's aggression, anger, and self injurious behaviors. They have taught Colton appropriate coping mechanisms for his anxiety and anger. They have helped us with his feeding and sensory issues. They took on the huge task of potty training 2 long years ago (we are hoping the end is in sight SOONER rather than later.) They have loved our child when he was certainly unlovable. They have given their all, their time, their love and their knowledge and expertise into making sure that Colton grows up to be a productive and kind member of our society, no matter what he chooses to do with his life. They have taught Colton how to get along with his peers, how to play appropriately with toys, how to deal with his BIG emotions and respond appropriately to adults. Aside from the social and cognitive skills he's begun to master, they've challenged him academically so that when we do mainstream him this fall at their sister campus in the Woodlands, he will be on par or above his neurotypical peers and will certainly be ready to go to public kindergarten in a year. As an educator myself, knowing that there are wonderful people out there willing to work with our challenging and special children is such a blessing. 

We have a wonderful tribe of autism families surrounding us that not only "get" our life and help us to celebrate those little milestones and moments, but also understand that life isn't always rosy and positive, and cry right along with us when the grief of parenting a "different" child starts to rear it's ugly head.

We have a supportive family, both immediate and extended who continuously remind us that we are doing an amazing job parenting, even on the days where we feel less than mediocre. Who, without much knowledge of autism, choose to educate themselves in order to better understand our world and our charming little boy.

We have an amazing group of friends who uplift us and have remained constant in our lives, pre and post diagnosis. Who, even knowing more times than not that we will say no, regularly ask us to do things. But also understand that sometimes the anxiety of going out in public is just too overwhelming at times.

We now have a jovial, happy, and hyperactive 4.5 year old little "man" with a personality the size of Texas. Who loves everything trains and knows the name of every Thomas character ever created. Who is affectionate (we only had to wait 4 years for hugs and kisses 😂), funny, and has the best mohawk in all of Houston. Who loves to jump up and down, FaceTime with his Grandpa, and show his cousin how trains move along the track. Who goes from sweet to sour in nano seconds. Who has the most contagious laugh and the most charismatic personality. 

We sure are fortunate to live this life. 

The road of life has been anything but smooth with roadblocks at every twist and turn, but I couldn't be more proud or more thankful that God thought I was strong enough to be this little boys momma. And if the last three years of progress is any indication of this child's future, I know he's going to do big things. And I will be right there beside him, cheering him on and being his biggest fan and advocate through life.

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