Autism... and our son

I was reading through my blogs on  google reader and came across a post by a friend of mine who also has a child on the spectrum - her blog is called Little Bit Quirky and she posted a great post that had me writing this long winded response to her post...

Autism is such a broad spectrum umbrella... my favorite quote is "When you meet one person with Autism, you meet one person with Autism" because it presents so differently - it's funny though - my husband was worried about the diagnosis but I was relieved because it opened up doors for services and programs that otherwise might have been closed... my son is in a pre-school program with several children with the diagnosis and each one presents different challenges and symptoms and each has different sensory needs... and social needs :)

My son is finally starting to acquire language and is making huge strides now, so I'm interested in seeing where this leads us in terms of growth at school and beyond :) 

It's such an amazing journey :)

So instead of hijacking her comment section completely, I decided that it was time that I wrote another post about where we are with Liam and his autism.  It's been kinda percolating in the brain for a few weeks, but Cheryl's post let loose a torrent of thoughts and it just seems like today is the perfect day to write.

The background:

My son was always a little bit quirky when it came to playing with his toys - he'd flip his cars over and play with the wheels - or when they are right side up, he'll lie down and watch the wheels spin.  He's obsessed with pinwheels, flushing toilets and has been for a long time.

His speech was, and still is significantly delayed - he was still just babbling at 18 months, and at two, with six months of speech therapy, had only a few basic words and phrases - most of which he didn't use in context.  He had also was displaying additional stimming and sensory behaviors - spinning, hand flapping and the like - he hated having his head touched, and there were other symptoms.

I had been corresponding with a friend whose son had autism since before Liam's 18 months appointment - and I had brought it up with his pedi, who had gotten us started on the speech therapy.  

I think I was always cognizant that Liam was different than his peers... I know for some parents of children with the diagnosis there is one day that stands out in their mind, or one incident - like a vaccination or something, but for us it was a process where we noticed things on a daily basis from the time he was 9 or 10 months.

He just gradually kept falling behind his peers - and new symptoms seemed to crop up... so by the time he was two, I knew that I wanted to have him tested.

His speech therapist was shocked - but he had a diagnosis of mild-moderate autism with social and communication issues being the most obvious issues... and we were set to start getting more services.

Sort of...

It took some time to get things organized, but eventually he started receiving OT, early intervention along with the speech therapy.

When he turned 3, he started a school program that changed the interventionist to an autism itinerant teacher... and we saw slow progress towards his social goals and some slight improvements in his speech..

at the end of the school year, we had a meeting to discuss his IEP - well, actually his dad went because I was an emotional preggo basket case and we figured that Wayne would be a better fit at the meeting :)

He had specific goals and objectives that he wanted to see happen this year - because, as some of you with exceptional children know, IEP's tend to be written in edu-babble and may or may not have clear outcomes...

We thought that with the strides Liam had made at home in language and processing should translate to the classroom... he was saying the months of the year, most of his alphabet and counting to 5 at home, but wouldn't demonstrate at school.

One of the most frustrating things is when you know that your child knows something, but there's a puzzle piece missing for him to be able to share it with others... this seemed to be the case with translating home to school...

The 'team' was reluctant to put our specific goals in the IEP, but did say that they would work harder on getting Liam to share those goals...

We also spent the summer really emphasizing the behaviors and activities of reading letters, pre-writing and using verbal communication - the school had been trying picture communication and sign with Liam but we were finding that he wasn't as responsive to that at home, so went with our gut...

Where we are now:

This summer, Liam's dad and I worked daily on his alphabet, counting, colors and shapes, as well as name recognition and the like...

And yesterday we got the pay-off

He got his report card from the first 4 weeks of school - Liam has demonstrated to the teacher that he knows his alphabet, counts to 10 regularly and knows his name in print, is starting to pre-write for her and is making huge strides in language usage for her...

He's still hanging back at school though - at home he's counting to 20, writing his name and recognizing 3 and 4 letter words when his dad or I write them on his magna-doodle... but we're breaking down that communication barrier - I honestly think he may read before he speaks in sentences - but we've unlocked another piece of the puzzle and he loves showing off his new skills!

Back to the original statement:

One child with autism... for us, we always knew that we had a very smart little boy - his spatial recognition is amazing - his memory for places and patterns is uncanny, and now we've helped to start unlocking a communication tool for him that he enjoys using - I'm so excited to see where this goes!

Thanks Cheryl for writing your post and getting me off my duff to share this!  If you haven't already clicked on  her post, you should - even if you don't have a child with Autism or Aspergers, it might inspire you to write :)

PS- gotta share a cute pic of Liam :

I'm linking this post up at 
Saturday Sampling