I remember back when I was pregnant with Kennedy. I read all the baby books and made all the lists of things that I needed. I had my bag packed and ready with all the “essentials” that you were supposed to bring to the hospital two months before my due date. Her nursery was stocked with all the things I would end up never using. I ate all the right things. I took my vitamins. I avoided caffeine. I did my homework and carefully planned the next eighteen years of her life before she ever took her first breath.
I would be the kind of mom who read stories at bedtime, and did crafts after our homemade organic lunches. She would take ballet and violin lessons and read chapter books before kindergarten. She would never argue or throw tantrums in the grocery isle. I would never yell. We would attend mother-daughter tea in perfectly pressed lacey dresses that would never be soiled. I imagined it all in my white-picket-fence silver screen version of our life. Needless to say, life looks a little different today.
I had several friends who were pregnant at the same time as I was with Kennedy. We all had babies around the same age, and it didn’t take long to start noticing that things with my baby were a little, well, different. The wondering turned to worrying, and the worrying turned panic, and the panic soon turned to sadness and confusion. There is a moment in every parent of a child with autism’s life where they realize that the script that they had written for their lives would have to be edited. How we handle the situation determines what genre this version of the story is categorized. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to decide that our story would still be a happy one.
Determined to do everything I could for my daughter, I went through the dreaded process of diagnosis. But what followed wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought that with this diagnosis the doors would be unlocked to opportunity and services would be lined up ready to start helping my darling girl reach every potential I knew she had in her. That wasn’t really the case. I left not knowing which way was up and where to turn. There is no roadmap for autism. There is no secret recipe.
By incredible chance, a friend of mine texted one day out of nowhere and said she was driving behind a van that said “Applied Behavior Center for Autism” and asked if I ever heard of it. She gave me the number, and I figured it was worth at least a phone call. Upon walking into the center for the first time, I couldn’t help but see those images I had once dreamed sneaking out of the corners of my mind. Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew undoubtedly this was the place that was going to make a difference for my child.
When Sawyer started also displaying signs of autism, I didn’t hesitate to get him diagnosed and started at the center along with Kennedy. Now almost three years later, Kennedy is preparing to enter kindergarten. She will join mainstream classes and likely need minimal help. Sawyer, who started at ABC completely non-verbal and not even walking, is an ornery toddler boy just like any other. He runs around and climbs on everything looking for things he can get into, and his communication is exploding with new words and phrases. He can tell me what he wants, if he is hungry or tired, and repeats anything you ask. Of course, my favorite is “I love you Mommy.” These are words that at one time I wasn’t sure I would ever hear.
I cannot imagine our lives without the amazing therapists who have worked so hard to get where we are today. What they do everyday is truly a gift for which I am not sure I can ever express how thankful I am. Our life may not have taken the path that I had originally planned, but we are moving forward and there is so much joy and pride in our journey. I may not have had a roadmap, but ABC has been our compass in the storm, leading my kids to a brighter tomorrow.
To make a difference in the lives of children and teens with autism, apply today!