Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Road Less Traveled On

Autism - Looking into my son's eyes

Some people cope by ignoring the issues or pretending they don’t exist. Some, like myself, feel comfort in talking about their issues or struggles as a therapeutic way to deal with them. There is no right or wrong way to cope with the difficult things life throws at us. Just know we each have our own ways of handling stressful situations.

For me, as I mentioned, I enjoy sharing my stories. I find comfort in knowing that when I do, more than likely there is someone out there who can relate and make both of us feel that we are not alone. So it’s time I share my next journey with everyone.

My son Cooper has a speech delay. We knew this when he went for his 18 month appointment with the pediatrician. They recommended we start looking into early intervention services if we wanted to then, but I had hope that maybe he just needed a bit more time. After coming home that same day feeling totally defeated, I heard Cooper say “momma” for the first time, clear as day. With tears in my eyes, I felt hopeful and gave myself a deadline of his 2nd birthday. If things hadn’t improved by then, we would contact EI. Well, his 2nd birthday rolled around and things hadn’t gotten better, but also hadn’t gotten worse. Just unusual. Words Cooper used to say very clearly he no longer said anymore. We’d make progress with our words only for him to regress and stop saying them again later. It made things increasingly difficult to manage our routine with him such as getting ready to leave in the morning, getting ready for bed, and trying to explain to him that he was going to have a new brother. We decided it was time to call EI.

After his initial evaluation with EI, the interviewers sat down with us and asked us how we thought he did. Not really knowing what to base it off, I was realistic that I knew he had a lot to work on. We were then told that Cooper was showing many signs of autism, which is where their primary concerns would be right now. We were then instructed to schedule a hearing evaluation to rule that out and then contact a developmental pediatrician for further evaluation.

Autism. Far from a life threatening sentence as far as disabilities, but my fears began to swirl. Not so much around if we could get him the help he needed. I knew we could. I know I will do anything and everything to make sure he gets what he needs. But my biggest fears and questions are always around him growing up socially. Will he have a fairly normal childhood? Play sports? Have friends? Will my son be picked on at school because of the lack of education around Autism Spectrum Disorders? Will his teachers be compassionate? Or treat him like he’s a bad kid? How will the world react to my son’s disability?

And then there is that word…disability. A word you never wish to use when describing your child. I sobbed uncontrollably for two days after hearing EI tell us their observations. But for my son, I’ve had to stand up, dry my eyes and get to work on making his home a safe space for him. For the last few months, I’ve spent my free time scouring the internet for more information, tips, toys to help him, what we can expect. All the while, I’m trying to juggle my attention between Cooper and Cal, still have time to spend with my husband, friends, and family, and have now returned to work. I’m starting to wonder if I can do it all.

The one thing I have found comforting since we started the road to a diagnosis for Cooper is that I now have hope. Having an answer and a clear path on where to start has significantly helped me accept Cooper’s delays and realize that he is still a smart and special kid who just expresses himself differently than others. My child is still a happy and healthy little boy! He will get the help he needs and he will dominate his disability because he is a Schabowski and we never give up.

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