AAM - Guest Post- Getting to Happy

I am pleased to have Afton Fraser, one of the co-authors of Point to Happy, a book for kids on the Autism Spectrum sharing the story of how her son touched her life.  I will be reviewing and hosting a giveaway of this fabulous book later on...

My 11-pound, redheaded baby Griffin was born September 17, 2002. He was typical in every regard except for sleep. I was nursing him and was up all night every hour. He never napped. I heard that newborn babies sleep most of the day, but not mine. I never could have imagined such sleep deprivation. Other than that, he was easy. When he cried, it was for a reason, wet, hungry, tired.

At about 8 months, Griffin started sleeping through the night, we enjoyed Mommy-and-me classes, Music Together, and Gymboree. He seemed right in sync with the other babies. Had he not been my first child, I might have noticed his lack of response to his name, playing peek-a-boo, stuffed animals. I was not worrying, Griffin had a few words, Bye-bye, hi, tree, momma, dada. He was so affectionate with me.

At 2, the delays should have been more noticeable to me, but I thought it was just a speech delay. I didn’t really think there was a problem. At 2 years and 4 months my pediatrician was concerned that Griffin was not responding to his name, and it made me nervous about whether there was a neurological problem. I still couldn’t see it. But I made an appointment with a developmental pediatrician.

After the consultation and 2 sessions, Griffin was diagnosed with autism. I was shocked, confused, I felt the floor pull out from under me. My world crumbled. The pediatric neurologist explained nothing, and basically said, “Here’s your new life.” 40 hours a week of therapy for Griffin.

My head was spinning.

I asked her how she came to the diagnosis. She said when he played “Ring-around-the-rosy” he didn’t fall down with enough joy. He wasn’t checking in enough, and he climbed on a slide awkwardly.

I cried. I defended Griffin. The slide was too small, he was checking in with me, he made eye contact with me. I left, despondent and sobbing.

I started ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and OT (Occupational Therapy) I was skeptical, but I did it anyway. I learned about the autism spectrum and educated myself through the internet and through the therapists. I finally accepted the diagnosis. I was on board to do anything to help Griffin.

Griffin started preschool the following year. I was a nervous wreck. I would bring him to school and just leave at their insistence. How would they know how to communicate with him? Or what he needed. I left him and would stand outside and look in the window. He was on the floor having a huge tantrum. I left in tears, feeling helpless, but I knew it would be good for him. It was. By the end of the day he was ok, in more than capable hands. His teacher was amazing. She is a special-ed teacher, and they also had speech and ABA therapists on staff. It was a class of 10 typical kids and 5 with special needs. He still cried every day for a month, but less and less. He learned to sit in a circle and participate
a little more. Now I would cry from gratitude and hope.

Griffin is now eight years old and is in a private school for children with autism. He continues to do well. His language skills are improving and he can communicate his needs. He is very attached to his two younger brothers and his grandparents. Every therapist and professional who works with Griffin notices what a strong loving bond we have .I
didn’t have expectations of what Griffin could have been, I didn’t grieve for what he should have been, I love him for who he is. I just want to nurture him and bring out the best in him.

Bio: Afton Fraser, daughter of co-author, Miriam Smith, is a writer, actress, and mother of three, one of whom has autism. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.