Sunday, July 7, 2013

Disconnected (part 1)

Aiden was the easiest baby. He was a great sleeper and always so happy, but when he was 9 months I started feeling uneasy. I had several friends with baby boys around his age and the summer before his first birthday I remember sitting in silence, paranoid with a million thoughts racing through my mind, at a play date. Aiden wasn't talking like them. He wasn't playing with them. He wasn't crawling. And the sting of the questions never went away; "How many words is he saying?"

I knew deep down things weren't right. Anytime I brought up my concern, people replied nicely with an "I'm sure he's fine. All kids are different and learn at their own pace." Which they are, and I know those responses came with the best intentions. But it was getting more serious. I knew with all of my being something wasn't right. Despite everyone else telling me to wait it out, I sought help. (Moms and dads, this is where you trust your instincts.) People want to believe the best and give advice. And in love they do that, but they aren't always right. When you have that gut feeling go with it. There was nothing to lose but everything to gain.

So I took it upon myself to contact Easter Seals and got Aiden in their ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) program at the age of 18 months. My concerns were confirmed in our first meeting with them. He was behind in speech and had many signs of being on the spectrum. He was enrolled in their program and immediately given speech and occupational therapy twice a week. As much as we saw some improvements, we also saw our little boy go from a carefree happy baby to a frustrated and angry little boy. Simple things weren't simple for him. It was very discouraging. He was disconnected.

It was a warm day in April when I met with the psychologist and teachers. It was that day the dreaded label was confirmed. Aiden had Autism. His specific diagnosis was Autism PDD NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified) I knew this deep down for years, but in that moment it was made more real. I handled it better than I imagined I would, but I had to remind myself that Aiden was the same child and we just had a label to go off of to get him more help. Sadly I didn't handle the really hard days that well. I still wondered what his future looked like. Were these therapies even helping him? I hated Autism. I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I dealt with all of this well. I didn't. I was mad. I felt sorry for myself and envied every family with children that were "normal." I was exhausted and I wanted God to fix him. This would be a cycle that had lasted for 3 years and would continue. I would read about these families that saw Autism as a gift and it only made me feel worse about myself because I didn't see it that way. I didn't want to be a part of any of it. I didn't feel like we belonged. I had many angry conversations with God and I was ashamed of myself for that. Why couldn't I be like one of those people that just embraced it?

I kept waiting for change. Hoping that something would click. Aiden had been in public school for three years and he was still having trouble socially, verbally, emotionally, and was still behind on reading. The fits he was throwing would come out of nowhere and were impossible to control. Many days I wanted to walk out of the house the moment Justin arrived home from work. It's emotionally exhausting.

And that brings us to last October. I remember pouting to Justin the night I strained my back. I was super upset and very annoyed because it had ruined our plans of having the weekend without the kids. And it meant money to see a doctor and it was irritating to me that I wouldn't be able to exercise or get around easily for a while. How many times have we done this? Gotten so worked up over something that puts a wrench in our plans that we don't take the time to see what it could be for. Or not even that. Just to see it for exactly what it is. It was a strained back. I wasn't dying. We were all fine. But I chose to have a bad attitude about it. Did I need rest, a chance to get my back in good shape, and a moment to be thankful for what I had? Yes, I needed all of that. Sadly it took me awhile to get there. And little did I know all I was going to get out of this experience....

I had no idea that when I got the recommendation for my chiropractor how much it would change my life. I had a 6 week recovery time for my back heal. And I got something even better than healing for my own body. Through conversation with my doctor I brought up Aiden and his struggles. Dr. Gazhi recommended a book, Disconnected Kids by Doctor Robert Melillo. I ordered it right away and as I frantically read through each page light bulbs were going off. It made so much sense. I was scared though. Was this too good to be true? Exercising the side of the brain that was behind and changing his diet. Was this really the answer? Was this really going to work? Why had I not heard of this book before? He was disconnected... How were we going to get him back?

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