Even before my son received the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis, life was very challenging. Way more challenging than it should be for first time parents and a new baby. Everyone told us “Life changes completely when you have a child,” but they couldn’t have meant all of this, right?
Around five months old, my son, who used to love car rides, suddenly became terrified of riding in the car at night. His screams would instantly bring me to tears and the only thing I could do was drive home faster. I’m still not sure what changed; maybe it was not being able to see his surroundings out the window, maybe it was the headlights zooming past. Whatever it was, during those first winter months as a new mom, I made sure to always be home by 4:30 to avoid another traumatic drive.
Soon after that, the daily challenges began to pour in. We couldn’t skip a nap, ever, or my sweet baby boy would cry relentlessly. We couldn’t go anywhere too busy, or noisy, or colorful, or exciting, or hot or cold. It seemed so much of our world was just too much to handle and I couldn’t comfort him. Even on our good days, if we stayed out just a little too long, never really understanding where that line in time was drawn, it would cause meltdowns and sleepless nights.
Heartbroken for my son and completely exhausted, we just stopped going out. I was terrified of putting my son in a situation he couldn’t handle. And I felt completely helpless and a failure as a mother for not instinctively knowing how to reach him.
The invitations eventually stopped coming in. My husband would run all of our errands after work. And I stayed inside all day, every day, grieving my dream of a normal life.
Just before my son’s first birthday, he was evaluated and approved for Special Services. I remember crying so hard that day because this meant we were all going to get help. I didn’t know that there were answers for all my questions. I didn’t know that there were methods to relieve his challenges. We all so desperately needed guidance and I was blessed with four amazing teachers who have completely changed our lives.
My list for his first IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) was more like a novel of challenges. But we started small, tackling the issues that caused the most daily upset. It’s been an tremendous amount of work, but we’ve all learned so much about his ASD.
So many families have children on the Spectrum and I want you to know you’re not alone in your struggles and triumphs. Every week, I will share our story in hopes that our experiences resonate with your family. I’ll share the teaching methods we’ve learned, products we use, and places we love to visit in the Hudson Valley.
I may not know what the sea has planned, but now I look forward to sailing every day.
Previously posted at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine.
*If you have any concerns about your child, please discuss with their pediatrician or contact your local school district or Early Intervention center for an evaluation.*