April 4th, 2013 Along came Autism Michael’s life journey with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) although unique and very special resembles many other stories of children all over the world. He was born perfectly healthy on one Tuesday morning in the early 2007, through an emergency C-Section. Pregnancy was just like in “What to expect when you’re expecting” J - strong nausea for the first 5 months, felt movements in the 17th week and saw him growing, putting on weight till the day he was born. He scored 9 in Apgar scale in the first minute after he was delivered and perfect 10 in the 5th minute! Our champ screamed his lungs out to let us know he was fine. What a day that was! Tears of joy, parental pride seeing his tiny body – so perfect in every angle. His mental, physical and social development was just as expected for his age – first smiles, first laughs as reaction to our silly sneezing and studying our faces… He was sitting up on his own when he was 5 months old, walking when he was 10 months old and using few words at the age of 1. He was putting 2-word phrases (big car, green truck etc.) at the age of 18 months. He was fully vaccinated according to the local immunization schedule (gazillion shots in such short lifetime!). He was perfectly fine, happy little guy loving to be around other people. Alas, around his second birthday we noticed something had changed. He didn’t keep eye contact for more than a few seconds. He stopped talking, started making “noises” instead and using hand stereotyping (drawing in the air with his index finger, staring at his hand etc.). Studying clinical psychology and children’s psychology in my university years I remembered symptoms of autism and developmental disorders. I started having some suspicions that our son may have some mild form of ASD. Of course my family and I were in denial for a long time. Not our boy! That’s ridiculous! How many times had we heard: “many kids, especially boys, are late talkers and Michael’s odd behaviours are due to his shyness” … Anything but the “A” word. But as the worrying symptoms were more obvious (he never pointed, never asked questions like other kids his age, never really engaged himself into playing with other children) we knew something was wrong. We decided to consult a speech and language therapist to help us get our boy to talk again. After several meetings with us and observing Mikey in the kindergarten, she had some shocking news for us: “Michael suffers from something that’s called Sensory Integration Disorder”. In a way we were relieved as the word Autism was not mentioned in her report. Little did we know that SID is not the only thing that he was suffering from. As Michael’s behavior was getting more challenging with every passing week, we decided to consult another specialist. After a thorough interview with us and testing Michael’s skills we heard: “Your son has Autism and it’s a lifelong condition but with early intervention program his chances for normal life may increase”. What do you do when such news fall on you and all your hopes crumble like a chocolate chip cookie? Well… we went through “stages” of: denial, anger and frustration, huge disappointment, guilt, helplessness, sadness, depression… You name it – we were there. But then, as we saw that his therapies were slowly bringing him back to our world, engaging him more into family life again, we saw the light at the end of this dark and long tunnel. There was hope and real joy in our heart. Then there was a phase of redirecting and reshaping dreams for our family. It wasn’t easy to swallow the thought he would never play baseball or football with his daddy like other boys do or that he’d possibly never say “mama” ever again… That is the phase we often find ourselves in even now, like many other “autism parents”. It’s not getting any easier but we sure do get stronger and more equipped to be Michael’s parents, grandparents, sister, auntie, uncle etc. Where do we get this secret super power from? His name is Jesus – the real Hope for the brokenhearted! Read more on that subject in my next post. Stay tuned!