Saturday, February 11, 2012
What were you doing 2 years ago today?
I can tell you my answer with the up most detail, as if it happened this morning. I often blog about that day, because it truly changed our families life forever. Our biggest fear was confirmed, Owen has Autism.
Remember, Autism effects a persons ability in 3 major ways - Communication, Social Interaction, and Behaviour. For Owen, he has classified as non-verbal, as he lost 90% of his words he learned, and the first time parents hear the word, "mama" usually the child is 15-16 months, Owen was 3. In 2 years, Owen is now speaking in 5 word sentences, asking for what he needs/wants, labels everything in sight, and did amazing on his first report card this year.
Social - Owen has a hard time, and still struggles to be in an area that is crowded, he doesn't understand social cues, and what appropriate play with a peer is. He has come a long way since then, but still struggles in new situations and meeting new people. For a person who has Autism, even playing team sports is very difficult, but this past summer, Owen was an active and participating member on a soccer team with his sister. Owen has preformed in a school concert for Christmas, and enjoys swimming at the public pool with his daddy. At school, he now engages play with children, accepts hugs and kisses from them, and shows us empathy.
Behaviour - When Owen was diagnosed, it was not hard for Ryan and myself to see that yes, he had Autism. He has been diagnosed as having, "Classic Autism", which means Owen displays the behaviours and characteristics that other children with Classic do, where as a person with PDD-NOS may just have some tendencies but is fine to communicate, or someone with Aspergers can communicate perfectly but has no idea what to do in a social situation. Classic means the person has difficulty in every area, which Owen does.
Owen displayed behaviour that again, is Classic behaviour, like - spinning in a circle, lining toys up instead of playing with them, flapping his hands and tensing his body when he is over stimulated, shaking his head back and forth non-stop, turned into a very picky eater (reduced diet, only wanting fries, cookies and milk) screaming and grunting to communicate, pica tendencies, not caring when Maddie was born (completely ignored there was another baby in the home, same when Ben was born) and stimming with anything vertical ( a lamp post, stair rails etc).
Owen continues to have behaviours, but compared to 2 years ago today, they are much more mild. He has more control over them, the flapping has stopped, the lining up is few and far between, the spinning is gone as well as the pica. Owen displays empathy to myself and our family, he is trying more food, the screaming is only there when he is having a meltdown, but the one behaviour that is still very much apart of Owens life is his visual stimulation. He does not hit, himself or others, he is a happy boy, and if visual stimulation is our biggest behaviour, I think we are doing alright.
In the past 2 years, we have both grown as parents - and only speaking for myself, this journey has in fact made me the mother I always wanted to be. This has taught me that life is too short, there is so much more to fight for, that patience is a virtue, and that love is unconditional. I have met so many new, supportive and understanding people, workers - parents, and everyone in between that has stayed with us on this journey the past 2 years.
We have had major events, transitions, and therapies for Owen. He attended private therapy for a year and a half, he has been in speech with NPCC as well as Occupational therapy. He went from Preschool at Kids Kastle, to functioning in full-day JK at Cherrywood school with now, full day EA support. We are coming up on our 3rd annual Walk for Autism, but our first year as Team Owen AND Ben Coens, and we held a very successful fundraiser to our family cover Owens private therapy costs at Brick By Brick in Fonthill.
We try to offer our children the most we can, we take them away up north every summer to Ryan's families hometown, Marmora. Owen went from not wanting to swim, scratching us, screaming..loosing his mind, to jumping into the pool into Ry ans arms. I believe because we don't shelter them scared taking them into public with a HUGE potential of meltdown scenario, they are better for it. We took our kids to the Great Wolf lodge, thinking Owen would be the worst of all 3 - he was the best. He goes with the flow, he tries new things, he is the best behaved - and I think it is because he knows what is expected of him in certain situations, he makes me proud.
2 years ago today, if someone where to tell me we would be this far and we are surviving, I wouldn't have believed you. I was one of, "those" parents that thought this was a death sentence, seeing what can happen when Early Intervention is unattainable, seeing the aggression from people with ASD at our work - it was depressing, and this was our future. It's not. As I sit here typing, amazed we are where we are 2 years later - Owen is a success story. The families, the children in those families we have met - they are success stories, of how far they have come, the love they have, and the acceptance.
As we begin a new kind of journey now, with 2 boys who have Autism, my 2 sons - I am ready. We have about 7 different options in front of us, and we are awaiting to be pointed in the right direction. For the past 2 years, we have always put Owens needs for therapy, intervention and success first - now we have another needing us to do it again, and a beautiful little girl who is affected by every decision we make.
Here is to the next 2 years. Thank you for staying on our journey.
(all photos were taken within 4 months of Owen's diagnosis).