- Posted March 30, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Communicating through autism
Cherishing Every Word
They are essential for human beings. Whether spoken, written, or signed, they help us communicate our desires and emotions. Imagine looking into your newborn babies eyes and visualizing the sweet conversations you would one day have with her about flowers, boys, school, or even marriage. Then, two years later in a lonely physicians office, looking into those same glassy blue eyes and hearing the word autism.
Before my daughter’s autism diagnosis, I remember trying for hours on end to get her to say her first word. I would frantically explain away her delays to friends as I watched their children surpass her skills for each and every milestone. The diagnosis was almost a relief for me, as I felt like a terrible mother, unable to get my child to meet milestones. I would leave play dates in tears. I saw these children looking at their mothers with such love and using the actual words to express it, “I love you”. My daughter rarely looked into my eyes and her way of communication was pounding her head against the pavement until she bled. I would hear other mom’s complaining about how their kid wouldn’t stop talking. I wanted to grab those moms, shake them, and tell them to cherish each and every little word that came out of their child’s mouth. They had no idea what it was like to NEVER hear their child say “mom”.
In the beginning I spent many nights “ugly crying” in the bathtub to shield my family from the depths of my sorrows. Once I got done mourning a future that never existed in the way I had pictured it, I went into “warrior mode”. You hear autism parents call themselves warriors because it is a 24/7/365 job. Everything is a challenge from therapies, to school IEP’s, to new treatments (not to mention the tantrums, poop on the walls, and social anxiety). We are warriors because we fight to pave the way for our children and the next generation of children. No one can tell us exactly what causes autism or exactly how to cure it so we have to try EVERYTHING to “fix” our children. Can autism be fixed? In my personal opinion no, but the “autism cloud” can be lifted. I know this because my daughter is slowly coming out of her cloud and because of this I look at her every day like a walking miracle. At five, she now reads over 20 sight words and enjoys labeling shapes, colors, animals, and occupations. She still struggles with extreme anxiety, loud screaming, and occasional tantrums but she is a delight to be around and is really starting to connect to the world around her! She has an infectious smile and is truly happy.
I would like to tell new autism parents a few things that have helped our Bella find her voice. She has gone from saying no words and hours of tantruming, to speaking in sentences and learning to communicate not only words but also emotions. I am blown away daily at the things that have been locked in her little brain. After diagnosis we first changed her to a gluten, casein, and soy free diet following research that children with autism have leaky guts. I did this after she continually had loose bowel movements and rashes all over her body. After the diet change her behaviors vastly improved. We then enrolled her in early intervention (speech and occupational therapy) with the state and signed up for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA has probably been the most beneficial part of her therapy regime as it helps her (and us) cope with behavior using positive reinforcements. A year later we started biomedical treatments (essentially treating autism from the inside out). The same month she started biomedical, she started speaking! She was three and a half years old when I finally heard the word “mommy”. There is nothing sweeter.
Words are precious.
During Autism Awareness Month, I celebrate the fact that my daughter can speak to me. Don’t ever take a single word for granted because some of us find them to be precious little miracles. Happy Autism Awareness!