Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thank You to the Peete's...

My mother in law sent me a link today, and I think it is what I needed to read today.. I think sometimes a lot of parents, like myself.. we get down, upset, maybe even jealous of the therapists working with our children..we feel like we are getting a false sense of hope with our children. Are they REALLY going to improve? Are we wasting our time on therapy, behaviour modification? Are we really doing best by our children spending all the necessary money and time to get them to our goal for mainstreaming their lives?! I think when you are a parent of a child with ASD, these thoughts constantly run through our minds...

Then I read success stories.

I read how parents have no hope, their children are not making eye contact, ignoring them when their name is called not speaking..they are lost.. then its like magic. Paying for therapists to impliment strategies and techniques so effective, that in a lot of cases, the children are able to say, "I love you".. play team sports, and attend a mainstream school and classroom..this is my dream for Owen.

There is a famous family that have been dealing with their eldest son being Autistic for the past 12 years, and they felt just like us...NFL Star Rodney Peete and his wife, (who is currently on Celebrity Apprentice) This is the link my mother in law sent me, and it hit home. I hope you enjoy.


Rodney Peete's Journey To Accept Son's Autism

Rodney Peete was an NFL quarterback. His wife, Holly Robinson Peete, had been through the rough-and-tumble of Hollywood as an actress.

Nothing prepared the couple for the words that would change their lives:

"Your son has autism."

That was 12 years ago, and Peete did not handle the news well. From those dark days comes the title of his new book, Not My Boy! which offers a personal view of a parent's struggle.

"That's the way I felt when I got that diagnosis," Peete tells NPR's Michel Martin. "This is not happening to me. This is not my boy. I had all these expectations of what I wanted him to do."

RJ, named for his father, began showing signs of trouble at age 2 or 3, Peete says: "He stopped looking us in the eyes. He stopped responding to his name."

They sought out doctors and specialists, and were told that RJ would never be in a mainstream school, would never speak, would never look them in the eyes, would never say "I love you."

Peete says he went into "denial," in part because of his own expectations as a man and a father.

"We believe we can fix everything," he says. "We have our own goals for our children, especially sons. I wasn't able to connect with my son, who was my firstborn son, who had my name. I was in denial about what he had, what the doctor was telling us. It was a dark time for us."

His wife's response, he says, was positive: "Let's roll up our sleeves."

His was not.

"I was still stuck in 'I don't believe the diagnosis,' " he says.

Things began to change when a specialist asked Peete to get on the floor with his son. The idea was to try to interact with the child on his own level.

"It was just a disaster," Peete recalls. "He didn't look at me. He was playing with a fire engine at the time and kept turning the wheels around and around and really didn't pay any attention to me. I got up after five minutes, disgusted and disappointed."

Then the specialist got down on the floor and RJ started responding to her, with laughs, smiles and attempts at talking.

First, Peete got angry.

"That was a moment when I did get away with the Scotch and the cigars and really became distant for a few days," he says.

Then he had a bit of an epiphany.

"I came to the realization that I didn't know what I was talking about," he concedes. "I didn't know what I was doing. I [had] better get onboard with some of these therapies and what's going on with my son before it's too late.”

After eight years of work with specialists, RJ now is in a mainstream school, plays team sports and plays the piano. And he does tell his parents "I love you."

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," he says to other parents with autistic children. "There is hope."

Dealing with autism is expensive. Rodney and Holly Peete have created the HollyRod Foundation to help families who lack the resources to deal with their child's needs.

But Rodney says that some of the lessons he takes from his experience could be helpful to any parent, regardless of his child's abilities.

"Each parent needs to treat their child as an individual and really come down to their level ... and really not put the pressure on our children to be what we want them to be," he says. "The sooner we understand who our child is and what he wants to do, the better."

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