Caitlin will be 17 years old in February of 2008. She was diagnosed with Autism in August of 1993. She was 2 1/2 years old. So, I have been the parent of an Autistic child for almost 17 years.
I knew, from birth, that Caitlin was going to need extra care. I saw it in her eyes.
She screamed from the moment she was born, until she was about 5 months old. Then, the screaming stopped......overnight.
I was a new mom at the ripe old age of 30. I still had no idea how to deal with a baby. I was clueless. Caitlin taught me alot....patience, love, and most of all understanding.
When she was around 10 months old, we moved from NYC to my home town of Austin, Tx. It was a big move for all 3 of us. During this time, I began to notice that Caitlin did not try to talk or communicate with us. I brought this up to the pediatrician we had found in Georgetown, Tx....recommended by my sister.
At 15 months, we questioned the doctor AGAIN about Caitlin's lack of words. The pediatrician told us that we were "DOING TOO MUCH FOR HER, MAKE HER ASK FOR THINGS"....Are you kidding me????
When I got home that day, I reached for our phone book. On the back cover was an ad for a doctors referral. I called the number and was referred to a new pediatrician. I called, he took our insurance, so I made an appointment.
At the age of 18 months, this new, young, very intune doctor said, "I AM CONCERNED THAT YOUR DAUGHTER IS NOT TALKING......" Bingo. We had found our doctor.
We were referred to a neurologist (whom we saw yesterday....15 years we have been going to him), a speech therapist, a physical therapist and a behavior therapist.
The neurologist told us, "I believe your daughter has Autism"....WHOA....!!!!!
I had dealt with Autism as a teenager while babysitting. I had worked with young autistic teens in college at a residential treatment center....I said to this doctor, "Do you mean she is retarded?"....The neurologist looked at me and said (in a very stern voice)..."I did not say that, I said your child is possibly Autistic".
I was in a fog for the rest of the day.
I then made it my mission to read every book there was to read on Autism. My husband, Caitlin and myself went to the big "downtown" library every Saturday. Remember, this was 1993, there were not that many books on Autism.
We did not have a computer, and for that, I am grateful. I did not have the ability to "Google" autism and receive false hope and promises.
Instead, I was given the only ability I had...to parent a child who happened to be given a diagnosis of Autism.
Caitlin has taught me that her diagnosis does not take away from the fact that we have to be parent's to her. We did not allow her to throw fits in restaurants and stores....we removed her and took her home. She had many temper tantrums at that age. She smeared her poop and other things all over her room. She would take out every piece of clothing, from her drawers, and throw them all over the room.
I remember waking up one morning. While walking down the hallway, I smelled the sickly smell of something really sweet. As I opened Caitlin's bedroom door, I witnessed birthday cake smeared from one side of her room to the other. It took me over 8 hours to clean that room that day.....I was not happy.
As Caitlin started public school, there were no options but inclusion. I am so happy about that now, but then, it scared me. How can this non-verbal, unfocused child sit with "normal" children?
It is possible with the help of amazing educators and therapists. It can be done with the acceptance of the parent's of these NT children....which through the years I have noticed that most of these children are far from "normal".
From Kindergarten on up, Caitlin has been loved and nurtured by her classmates. There is the occasional bully, but bullies are few and far between. I have taught all of my children to ignore those that make it a point to try to demean others. Most bullies will leave you alone if you do not add "fuel to their fire", so to speak.
Fast forward to 2007...Caitlin is a well-adjusted, almost 17 year old young woman. She makes straight A's in school. She still requires an attendant and Speech and Occupational Therapies. She still requires assistance at home through Recreational Therapy....
If you would have told me 14 1/2 years ago, on the day she received the diagnosis of Autism, that she would be the amazing person she is today, I would have thought you were out of your mind.
Please know, Caitlin's story is not over....it is just beginning. She has so much further to go in life. She has so much to share and I will help her to do this.
- I am the proud mother of 6 children. 5 of our children have autism. We do not feel our world has ended, but just begun. We do not chelate, intervene biochemically, give shots of any kind, practice ABA, etc. We treat them as we treat any humanbeing. We treat them with kindness and respect and expect the same from them. They are exceptional children.
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