Hello. My name is Liz and my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 12 – more specifically, he has Asperger’s Syndrome. My son’s name is Chris and he will turn 15 in August 2015.
By the time my son was four, he was routinely beating up on his teachers – biting, kicking, scratching and punching. He had all the aspects of a brilliant child. He was speaking in full sentences between 12-18 months old and he still has an incredible grasp of the English language. Throughout his academic career, his intelligence was never in question but his behavior was always the issue. We as his family knew he could accomplish great things if we just believed in him enough; if I loved him enough and would be there no matter what, he would get better and become a successful student.
Home life was a struggle too. As his mother, I was the target of many bodily blows. I was told I needed to get him help, but to me, getting him labeled was a fate worse than death because it would “ruin his future,” because to “label him” it would set him apart and it ultimately meant I had failed as a parent. It didn’t help that I was told I just “need to discipline him more.” We enrolled him in karate, sport after sport, anger management classes, therapy, social work involvement, group therapy, bicycling before and after school, running races together, staying in a separate household for an extended period of time, the list goes on. I knew if I could work him out enough surely this would make a switch flip somewhere and he would suddenly change!
Sadly, nothing I did worked. Even after issues with law enforcement and the possibility of long-term institutionalization, my son continued to act out in ways inappropriate to his age and ended up on three to four different medications. I was even told by family, “You’re doing all you can, it’s not you.” But I didn’t hear this. At some points I thought I was being punished for being a wayward teen and if I had done things differently I would enjoy my son, instead of dreading every day I awoke.
After going through a plethora of diagnoses such as ODD, Bipolar, etc., he was given Asperger’s. I would like to point out that I inquired about Asperger’s/Autism from one doctor who told me, “His social relateability is too high.”
Soon after getting the proper diagnoses, we acquired ABA therapy service in October of 2014 with Early Autism Project. They were the only program in the area that could get my son in within a week of me calling them while other programs were on a 2-month delay. Since his admission into this program, Chris is learning how to regulate himself socially. Just recently we went to the pool where I used to have to follow him around to make sure he didn’t accidentally drown someone from unnecessary horseplay. I was able to sit on the side of the pool and witness him interacting with his peers without incident. There was the occasional redirection but I never had to get up and correct him or physically intervene.
For the first time in his entire academic career, he is able to perform tasks at school (with the help of ABA) that I have never seen him accomplish. I’ve become acquainted with Autism Advocates and for the first time in my life I walked out of an IEP meeting with a feeling of hope! Hope that my son is not only going to graduate high school but he’s going to function successfully in society without me having to hover over him to ensure he makes it.
My husband is military and although I won’t say I don’t have anxieties about him deploying, I don’t have a sense of impending doom either. In fact he is PCSing to the next state come June so we’ll see him on the weekends. I’m not worried about this because we have the services in place to give our family the most effective support possible.
My mother just visited us over a weekend and within the first 24 hours she stated, “That’s not the same kid.” The therapy has helped him come to a point of being able to go out together without having to worry about a public meltdown.
I am happy to report that I now enjoy my son’s company and I am seeing him for who he really is, which is a child with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. We’ve got a ways to go. I’ll have sequences of four really good days then a really challenging day. With the help of EAP, I have learned that small victories are the focus and help overcome the drama of the meltdowns and the anxiety. If I had to say one thing about EAP and/or ABA to any parents that identify with anything they’ve just read, it’s that if I had known how it would be now, I would have had my son evaluated and gotten these services when he was four! More importantly the biggest message (among MANY) is that I’m not a horrible parent. I never was… my son just operates differently and luckily for me, I’m learning how to see that with this programs help and support. Thank you.