April = Autism Awareness Month, But It Really Shouldn’t Stop When April Does.

April = Autism Awareness Month, But It Really Shouldn’t Stop When April Does.

Hello again! I know it has been a hot minute since I posted last, but I have really been racking my brain to come up with something that would be of interest. Then I decided to just forget it and write about something that interests me and if y’all don’t like it…speed on before you get peed on. LOL Ok, so that is not really how I feel, but I just decided to write about things that are important in my life and hope that you find some value in it.

April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day. It is a day that different people, cities, companies all show support for autism research and the families living with autism by either wearing blue, using blue lights, etc. It is truly a beautiful thing when you see SO MANY people wearing blue in support! Why does this mean so much to me? My 9 year old son was diagnosed with autism when he was just about to turn 3 years old. It was the most devastating news I have had as a new mother. He is my first born son and was just so perfect in every way. I just couldn’t have imagined that anything be “wrong” with him. In all reality I did see the “signs”, but I was in denial and chose to ignore them because when I did bring it to the attention of his pediatrician when he was 6 months old and noticed that he started rocking a lot in his highchair, I was told that it was just a “phase” and that he would “grow out of it”. I was a psychology major in college and knew that something was “off”, but was told that “it’s just a phase” and “he’ll grow out of it”. (Well, I am still waiting for him to “grow out of it 8.5 years later. I don’t think that is happening.)

As time went on, less and less of his milestones were being met. He continued to get further and further behind. He had started babbling, but by the time he was 18 months old, that started to regress as well. My husband kept telling me that we needed to get our son tested, but I kept writing it off as this “phase” that the doctor mentioned. He was my first child. Who was I to question a doctor? Someone that is trusted to take care of the health of my son! My husband kept insisting and finally not long before his 3rd birthday in December of 2009, he was diagnosed with autism. I BAWLED my eyes out for 4 days straight! (I’m not even joking…constant sobbing, red puffy eyes, you know…that ugly cry for 4 consecutive days.) I blamed myself. I didn’t know how something like this could have happened. I didn’t understand how if I did EVERYTHING “right” during my pregnancy and there was NO history of Autism on either side of our families, how my son was “not normal” by the standards we are given for our children. Why didn’t he walk at the same time other kids his age did? Why did he rock ALL THE TIME? Why couldn’t he say “Mommy” or “Momma”? As it turns out…his pediatrician was wrong. It was not a PHASE. He was not going to “grow out of it”. Hindsight being what it is, I realize now that I was a fool for taking her word for it and not going with my gut instinct when he was 6 months old when I recognized the rocking as something that was A-typical of children his age. As soon as we could, we got my son in to see a Developmental Pediatrician and also got him on Social Security (Autism is determined a disability by the Social Security Administration) and got him in Speech and Occupational therapy. We also enrolled him in a pre-school program that placed special needs children with “typical” children so he would be in a learning environment to help with his social skills and with teachers and school therapists that could do more for his education than I could do at home since I was babysitting other children out of my home and had my daughter to care for as well. His first day of school, as I was trying to get him dressed and ready to go get on the school bus, it broke my heart to see him hiding under the table. He didn’t want to leave. I understand. I mean, it was a big step for such a little guy. He was going to go somewhere without me or his sister and be around a group of complete strangers. It was then that the most beautiful sound came from this frightened little babe. It was then that he said “Mommy” for the first time. He said “No, Mommy”. I immediately started crying! I was so happy to hear him call me that and actually know what it meant. But my heart broke even more because I knew he didn’t want to go. I so badly wanted to keep him home with me. I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted to hold him and cuddle with him and hear that beautiful little voice call me that ALL DAY LONG. Alas, I knew that the better option for him was to send him off to school in that bright yellow school bus.

Fast forward 6 years. Marcus now has a VERY LARGE vocabulary! He doesn’t exactly pronounce all of his words correctly and still has a noticeable speech delay, but in all reality I don’t care about that. I am just happy that he is able to express himself with his words and doesn’t mumble or “talk” with his mouth closed as much as he did when he was very young. He still does from time to time, but after a simple reminder he starts using his words again. He also has difficulty with things like writing that involves his fine motor skills. And like most kids, shies away from anything he finds difficult like reading, writing, and any form of math. He works hard though and that is all we ask of him. We just ask that he tries his very best.We talk about his having autism and I let him know how proud of him and how smart he is as much as I can. I let him know that just because something is hard for him that other kids find easier, doesn’t mean that he gives up, but that we simply need to find another way to do things so he can understand and make it easier for him. He still has delays in reading and math as I mentioned earlier, but I can say that he is doing much better with them than he was before and probably than he would have had we never had him tested.

I have a simple request from you. Please do your part and educate yourself on what autism is and how to work with people with autism. You may not realize it, but the odds of you knowing someone with autism or even working with someone with autism are pretty high. According to an organization that has been doing research and support on autism for many years, Autism Speaks, reports that autism is on the rise and that there are now 1 in every 68 children diagnosed with autism. If you or someone you know has a child that you may think is displaying signs of autism, might I also suggest getting testing done. The earlier a diagnosis can be done, the better odds there are of early intervention helping the child. While there is no cure for autism and no real known cause, early intervention is very important in their development. April is Autism Awareness Month, but please stay aware year round and spread your awareness. You’ll be surprised how many people have no idea, even if they have people close to them who have autism.