Son On The Spectrum (Part 3)
See Part 1 here: Son On The Spectrum (Part 1) See Part 2 here: Son On The Spectrum (Part 2) We got into the car and made our way to K’s parents’ house. We told my mom and sis-in-law that we’d talk when we got there, but by the look on our faces they knew that the news was not what we all had hoped for. Dr R’s words rang through my mind “at risk of autism… he’s only 2”. She had not confirmed it, but I knew the course of our lives was changing. I had read that several doctors are hesitant to give a hard diagnosis at age 2 but often the diagnosis is given a year or two later. I was living what I had read, and feared.
The persons in the room that night would in fact turn out to be our main supports through this journey and K and I would learn to lean on them in new and bonding ways.
We had a very emotional family meeting that night. Several eyes were wet including mine, while my husband and I explained what occurred, the advice given, and tried our best to answer questions about G’s future with our limited understanding. I remember us reassuring my dad in law that Gio was physically healthy and would have a normal life span, while not yet knowing if this was completely accurate. We felt very lost, but were committed to learning and doing all we could to help Gio. The persons in the room that night would in fact turn out to be our main supports through this journey and K and I would learn to lean on them in new and bonding ways.
He didn’t know the trials set before him. He didn’t know he would face challenges his peers would not. I didn’t feel prepared to be the mother he needed.
The following days and weeks were nothing short of insane. By this time I was 38 weeks pregnant, and trying to focus on preparing for a new baby while also figuring out what adjustments we would need to make for Gio. The days felt long, the nights longer. Though we had so much support around us, I felt overwhelmed much of the time. We reached out to close friends to inform them of what was happening, not knowing how to ask for the support we needed, and they not knowing how to give what we expected. I felt sadness whenever I looked at Gio – he was still my bright, beautiful boy, but his future would be so different from the one I wanted for him. He didn’t know the trials set before him. He didn’t know he would face challenges his peers would not. I didn’t feel prepared to be the mother he needed. I wondered about the child already in my womb. Would she also be autistic? How would K and I manage with a newborn and an autistic child, or worse – two autistic children? I cried out to God constantly for guidance and strength, and in pitying myself even dared to ask Him – “Why me?”, “Why us?”, “Why are we the ones with this mountain of a task before us?”
One short week after Gio’s diagnosis, I went into labour and Juliet was born. She was truly a ray of sunshine – a cherished gift amid a confusing and overwhelming time. Thankfully her delivery was very smooth and uneventful, and my recovery was extremely quick. Within days I was up and about with her, as we took Gio for several assessments and got him started in therapy. Juliet’s first year was spent at a therapy clinic, 3 days a week, while we observed Gio receiving therapy as I sat in, learning all I could. I remember that she took her first steps at 10 months old, in the waiting room of one of the clinics. That place became our second home.
My husband was my biggest emotional support, as I took main charge over Gio’s care. It helped that he quickly accepted what we were faced with, and worked with me to source and access help for our son.
While Gio settled into therapy, I consumed books, articles, podcasts, did parent training courses, set up a therapy room at home, bought and made lots of teaching material. I left my consulting job and focused only on Preggy Plus as this would allow me more flexibility. My sis-in-law and I worked out schedules to facilitate Gio’s learning at home. She would rush home after work to take care of Juliet, while I spent hours in our therapy room teaching Gio various skills. My mom visited very often and gave us whole family support just by being there. She, as well as my sis in law would watch both kids - allowing us to have date nights or weekends away so that we could recharge. My mom-in-law accompanied me to several therapy sessions. She learned through observation how to care for and encourage us and enjoy her grand-son. My dad in law is a man of few words but a large heart. He would pop in on evenings and weekends to sit with Gio, take him for walks or to visit the park. He learned to enjoy Gio on different terms. My husband was my biggest emotional support, as I took main charge over Gio’s care. It helped that he quickly accepted what we were faced with, and worked with me to source and access help for our son. When I felt guilt over Gio’s delays or distressed that certain methods were not working, or were draining me, he was always comforting. He was open to listening, understanding, and when necessary, offering a new solution. He consistently reminded me of God’s provision thus far and encouraged me to keep trusting in Him. Over the next few years, we would also by God’s grace find extremely skilled and committed therapists in Florida who would conduct zoom training and therapy sessions with me and Gio. One also visited us in Trinidad to further train me to work with Gio and to conduct family training sessions so we could all be aware of and implement techniques in our unique dealings with Gio. Eventually, as I became his main therapist, I decided to professionally equip myself by also becoming a certified ABA therapist.
I went from a place of loneliness and despair – wondering “Why me?”, to a place of complete gratitude – that God chose to draw me closer to himself through the challenges of having a child with autism.
During these years, Gio went from full time pre-school, to part-time pre-school to facilitate his therapy hours, to being completely homeschooled due to a lack of adequate school support. His local homeschool group allowed him to meet and interact with other kids weekly, which was such a blessing. Our entire lives changed to accommodate his needs, and by God’s grace, he flourished! And while Gio flourished, my reliance and trust in God steadily increased. I went from a place of loneliness and despair – wondering “Why me?”, to a place of complete gratitude – that God chose to draw me closer to himself through the challenges of having a child with autism. Before becoming part of the autism world, I prided myself in being a mom who knew my child well and could provide his every need better than anyone else. After joining the autism world, I learned how much I truly lacked, and came face to face with the fact that I needed to rely on God for the strength to do so much for Gio, while not forsaking my other responsibilities. Over the years that followed, Gio had several additional assessments and tests, and at the age of 4 he received a confirmed diagnosis of autism. By that time, we had already been giving him the needed intervention for two years, so it was more of a formality, and a further kick into gear for us to keep finding ways to provide him with what he needed to keep flourishing.
Today, Giovanni is a very well-adjusted 7-year-old boy. He is very affectionate, and will hug and snuggle next to anyone without warning – especially the ladies. He has few friends, and eagerly anticipates playing with them. He loves video games like Mario Party and Mario Kart, playing the piano, spending time at the beach/pool (total water baby!), riding his bike or taking long walks. His absolute favourite hobby is teaching us dinosaur and animal facts. He drives us crazy rattling off facts for hours on all extinct creatures, their features and time periods.
He and his sister Juliet are best friends. They have a loving relationship and while she often automatically steps into teaching mode to help him with everyday tasks, they also play as kids and best friends. They are truly a blessing to each other. Gio is also a master chef – each week he lists out all the food he wants to cook with me. His favourites are donuts and pizza, and we must make everything from scratch. He requires one-on-one learning to grasp his academics, and we rely heavily on visual forms of teaching. With specific methods in place for his learning, he continues to be on par with his peers. However, he has a hard time keeping a conversation on topic, so much patience is required from those around him.
I know now, it is because He loves me and wants nothing less than my eyes constantly on Him.
What have I learned from the last 5 years in the autism world? To cast all my cares upon God – my sustainer, and to take on challenges in bite-sized pieces. Now I ask, “Why me?”, but in a different way. Why has God chosen to bless me with this loving boy with such an amazing mind? Why has God chosen me to mother a child who would teach me patience and reliance on God? I know now, it is because He loves me and wants nothing less than my eyes constantly on Him. Thank You Lord, for my special son! Note to parents who are also on this journey: A diagnosis of autism, or other developmental delay can be a hard pill to swallow. But all is not lost. With early and thoughtful intervention, children can flourish. While some intervention may be costly, we have found that not even the best specialists can create the impact that meaningful time with our child could. Parental training and involvement (in and out of therapy sessions), investing time and exercising patience with our son continue to be the main keys to loving and helping him through these challenges. Resources that helped us along the way: Click here