Raising a child born on the Autism spectrum takes persistence and hard work. I know my patience was tested on numerous occasions when my oldest son was diagnosed with Autism. And I wouldn’t change my experience or my son for anything in the world. His love of science became part of our everyday routine. Before age 3, he knew all of the planet names, thanks in part to our countless trips to the Tellus Science Museum’s planetarium.
My son is a walking testament that early intervention works. I believe Autism can and should be diagnosed well before age two, closer to a 1 1/2 years old so therapy can commence right away while the brain is still malleable and more receptive to treatment.
The therapy our children receive under a therapist is not enough; it is up to us parents to work with their children outside of the 2 to 3 hours a week of therapy. Our Developmental Pediatrician introduced us to Greenspan Floortime therapy. The books, videos, and blogs are priceless for parents.
Make Occupational Therapy Fun!
Through our day trips to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and their carnivorous garden of pitcher plants, we discovered collecting rolly poly bugs to feed the pitcher plants and Venus flytraps were a fun way to work on his pincher grasp. It was the best therapy ever. “Traditional” methods of OT failed to keep his attention, so we had to get creative. We picked up many pitcher plants for our backyard and kept our son busy for hours. At his insistence, we bought a venus flytrap for his Kindergarten teacher.
Speech Therapy 101
Like many children born on the spectrum, my son had difficulty latching while breastfeeding and unable to use a straw at age 1, related to poor muscle tone in his tongue.
To develop muscles in his mouth, we crumbled up goldfish crackers and stuck them in his back molars to make his tongue move around.
Our therapist taught us how to use straw therapy to teach our son tongue retraction, grading, controlled tongue movements, and lip rounding, among other oral-motor skills. Strawkits can be found online at companies like talktools.com.
Alternative Forms of Communication
Our son’s speech delay prevented him from communicating with us effectively, resulting in awful temper tantrums. While in speech therapy, I took pictures of everything around the house (from favorite snacks to the bathroom), park, pool, his favorite foods, laminated each photo, and handed the stack to my son. He caught on very quickly to give me a card every time he wanted something.
While it could be perceived it hindered his speech by enabling him not to talk, it did address the tantrums and gave us a way to communicate until he learned to speak. If you Google DIY laminated flashcards, you will find endless resources to make your own set.
Motion sickness is common for kiddos born on the spectrum, and my son was no different. By the time he was four months old, vomiting in the car for prolonged trips was the new norm into his toddler years. At our therapist’s suggestion, we enrolled our son into assisted horseback riding lessons; I was always on one side of the horse and an instructor on the other with the end goal to overcome his equilibrium imbalance, which was causing him to vomit in the car. Hippotherapy worked! The vomiting became less and less frequent and came to almost a complete stop after a year.
We started our son on Coromega omega supplements; only omegas available with a tolerable taste in a squeeze package.
We also added Childlife essentials liquid multivitamin to his diet as he was a super picky eater.
Autism CARES Act
President Trump recognizes the struggle to treat Autism is real. Our communities are short of funding and resources. And that is why parents like myself and organizations like Autism Speaks applauded President Trump in September of 2019 when he signed the $1.8 Billion Autism CARES Act into law, extending support for autism research, services, and training benefiting individuals with Autism and their families.
Open School Of Choice Matters
Not all schools are equal. School of choice matters so parents can make the best decision for their children’s education.