Nothing in my life so far has been as fulfilling as being a mom. Parenthood tends to have it's challenges and on November 8, 2018, an official Autism diagnoses for Kaiden, added a new challenge to the list.
Kaiden has always been full of energy, personality, and very headstrong. I always took these things as they were, and contributed each behavior to that of a perfect, amazing child. I began to notice small things, like how it was hard to get him to make eye contact, or how some questions I asked, he would only repeat, but never answer. Still, I didn't think of these things as concerns. I shrugged some things off, noting that he was only 2 at that time, and was still growing and learning. It wasn't until the director of his daycare mentioned that she would recommend getting him evaluated for Autism that I got a bit of a reality check. She said he hadn't been on target with a few things that were age appropriate for him. She suggested that when he turned 3, that we have him evaluated and look into any early intervention programs that would help.
When mentioning these things to his father, he was a bit apprehensive. Like any parent would be, he had doubts that something could be amiss. He suggested that Kaiden just needed more time to learn different things. In the months following the discussion with the director, I watched Kaiden closely and paid attention to every little thing. Almost critical of how he handled everyday situations and how he communicated with us. I was shaken, afraid that something could be "off" with my first born. My precious baby boy.
He did begin to learn more things, grasp different concepts and explore a lot more. But I couldn't deny, he wasn't speaking as clearly as my niece was at his age, or even his cousin who was the same age. I began sitting down with him on the weekend whenever I could, working on things he needed help with. I noticed now more than ever exactly what his problem areas were and what he wasn't capable of doing. It was difficult convincing Maurice, but after a while, he came to notice the same things I had. The whining aimlessly, the staring off into space, the reaction to loud noises or unfamiliar spaces.
It became more evident as we attempted to potty train. He was fast approaching 3 years old and I became desperate to get him out of pullups. I'd tried every trick and the book and was relentless in the practices of sitting on the potty every hour or so, practicing how to tell someone he had to go, etc. Nothing seemed to be working. And with a 1 year old in the house as well, needless to say it became a bit of a headache to buy pull-ups and pampers, and run through countless pairs of training underwear and to no avail.
Right before his 3rd birthday, we lost my boyfriends mom and things at home were trying. There were days where potty training was an afterthought, and days where Kaiden became increasingly agitated with the process of sitting on the potty. When his 3rd birthday rolled around, I was hard pressed to find answers. I contacted all of the appropriate parties to look into evaluation. I was placed on several wait lists, and given the run around for quite a bit. I gathered all of the information I could, we tried new methods of teaching him things, showed him different ways to express his emotions, tried to find a way to better understand him. It got better, but I still needed to know what else could be done for the sake of his development.
I was his mother and I had an uneasy feeling in my gut about him being unable to communicate, I remember crying at the thought of something possible happening to him and him not being able to tell me. I thought of how cruel people could be to those who are different. So many worries and not enough answers sent my anxiety through the roof.
In August of 2018, I was finally contacted by someone from Kaiden's doctor's office where I had tried to get him an evaluation. They scheduled me for an appointment to evaluate, but it wasn't until November. I was so frustrated, but I waited patiently, hoping this would finally give me some answers. In the meantime, our efforts at home continued. Although he still needed improvement, we had found some kind of schedule for potty time, he had learned more and was getting along great with his brother.
Because of a dissatisfaction with the daycare he was in, Kaiden had been placed in a different school, where he'd gotten into the habit of constantly hitting and attacking the other children. I felt like we'd hit a wall. We talked to him, explained that it wasn't nice, took things away from him when he got in trouble, etc. The behavior persisted to the point of expulsion from that daycare. By that point, he was of age to be in preschool, but because of the way things were going, I was nervous about him being in such a structured environment, especially because he wasn't potty trained.
After being kicked out of that school, I ended up in a frantic search for a daycare that was in the are, had a good reputation, was also accepting babies (So that he and Destin would be in one place), and that both Maurice and I could easily access before and after work. By early October, just in time for Destin's first birthday, we'd found a daycare close to home that would take both of them.
I noticed that the school was a lot different from the one he'd been kicked out of. There weren't uniforms, and it wasn't quite AS structured as the other was. But as the weeks ticked by, I notice that this was actually perfect for Kaiden. He was getting along great with everyone and the fits and tantrums had decreased in a major way. I also noticed he was speaking more clearly, forming better sentences and the bathroom wasn't that much of a task anymore, although he was still in pull-ups.
November came around pretty quickly and on the 7th, it was time for the evaluation at last. I sat in the room with Maurice and Kaiden, and watched as she asked him questions, watched him play and went over a few things with us. She jotted things down here & there and I was so anxious, I could feel my heart about to jump out of my body.
"I would diagnose Kaiden as a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) who is high functioning. He is a Level 1 on Communication and Level 2 on Rigid and Repetitive Behaviors on the C.A.R.S-2 Scale."
There it was. It was what I had expected to hear, yet hoped I wouldn't. I remember feeling a rush of relief, and then an immediate rush of worry right after. What did this mean, what could I do, how did it happen?
So many questions. Some questions I still don't have the answers to, some that I do.
Since then, Kaiden has been evaluated by Elwyn, the agency that deals with early intervention services, and given a plan of action that involves both speech and occupational therapy. It has been a short journey since the diagnoses, but an eventful one, nonetheless.
Kaiden has been doing great in school and will soon meet with his speech and occupational therapists while in class, to help him complete the tasks created in his IEP. He's been fully potty trained with no accidents (or purchase of pull-ups) in about a month. Every few days, there's something new and it moves me to tears every time. So many small victories have made me realize how much we take for granted like the simple ability to communicate.
I love my kid with every bit of strength in my body and I want so much to protect him and nurture him through all of the challenges he will face. I want to teach him everything I know and give him every ability I have. But I have learned so much patience and compassion through this journey and I've also learned that my sweet baby body is not at a loss. He is not disabled. He is not defected. He is amazing, and smart, and adventurous, and brave. Everything about him makes him exactly who he is and his brain works a bit differently, but he is perfect. I am so thankful for his health and his uniqueness, and especially thankful that I was chosen to be his mom and that I get to watch him grow and learn new things. I get to keep celebrating every victory and love him unconditionally through it all. And there's nothing more fulfilling and rewarding.