About 6 months after getting married, my husband and I decided to have a baby. Thankfully, it didn’t take long and we were soon pregnant. Of course I purchased every baby book known to mankind and read and read and read, and then read some more! The moment in my pregnancy that stands out to me is the day we found out the sex of our baby. We found out we were having a boy! We were so excited but my husband was completely bonkers with this news! He longed and hoped for a boy (he already had 2 daughters). He called everyone and said “we have a penis, we have a penis”! The next few months were plagued with more reading, fear of childbirth, heartburn, fear of childbirth, sleepless nights, fear of childbirth, decorating the baby’s room, and oh yeah did I say fear of childbirth! I secretly was so happy to be the first person to give my husband the Son he Always Wanted.
On May 11th our son MJ was born. It was a normal birth and delivery. I thought the nurses had magic because they were able to make him stop crying when they swaddled him. We took our son home and the journey began. No one prepared me for how difficult it was to take care of a baby. I swear I didn’t remember my name or remember to take baths everyday for the first 2 weeks lol! WHY didn’t anyone tell me about the fact that I actually would be getting NO SLEEP! Breastfeeding for me was AWFUL!!! Yes, Yes, I know what “they” say…You are supposed to bond with your baby blah, blah, blah. Well, for me there was no bonding going on. There was pain and crying…Finally I called a friend and she told me to buy the “nipple cream”. The cream really helped to take the edge off and allow me to breastfeed for a few more weeks. Looking back it was probably a case of him not latching on properly but I was doing everything I knew to do from all of the darn books and magazines I had read!
Fast Forward a few months and I was finally getting the hang of this “baby thing”! There was a great book that I considered my second Bible. It was from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It was called “Caring For Your Baby and Young Child From Birth to age Five”. I used this book as a resource on a weekly basis (and I highly recommend it). According to this book, Mj met all of his milestones. Mj smiled, crawled, babbled, walked, and grasped objects when he was supposed to. I was a happy mommy to see how my son was progressing. During February of 2005 my mother passed and my husband and I decided to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia. While there I found a pediatrician in Atlanta just in time for his 14 month check up. At this time MJ was saying words like ball, juice, cup, and video. At this appointment he received a series of vaccines including the MMR vaccine. I must say that we began to notice a change in our son after this appointment. MJ was a very hyper child. He never walked. He always ran. There were times that he would pull away from my hand and run out into the middle of the street. We never considered this a red flag because he was no more hyper than some of the other kids that we knew. During this time we began to notice a difference between MJ and his peers. Other kids in the daycare would talk to me when I came to pick him up. MJ would never talk. I decided to do some research and found that boys tend to progress slower than girls. I figured that MJ was just progressing the way some boys do. I never gave it another thought. At 18 months we took him back to the pediatrician for his check up. During his appointment MJ bounced around like a ball, spun around in circles, and did the infamous “flapping” of his arms. I informed the Doctor that I was worried about his speech. “He is not speaking in two words sentences yet” I said to the Doctor. She said “he is not two years old yet so let’s wait”. She never asked any questions about the behavior he was displaying in the room. We decided to listen to the Doctor and wait.
During this time we found out that we were having a baby girl! Morgan was on her way (she was born February of 2007)! I THANK GOD THAT MORGAN IS HERE. If I found out about my son’s autism diagnosis before we were pregnant with her, she would have never been born. The FEAR of having another child with autism would have prevented me from having another baby.
“Houston We Have A Problem”
During 2006 we continued to notice our son’s speech delay. I did some research and found information on recurring ear infections and how that could affect speech in children. MJ suffered from numerous ear infections. He had one almost every time he had a cold. After speaking with his doctor and receiving a referral to an ENT I made the appointment. They tried giving him a hearing test but he was unable to take it. He would not respond to any of the sounds he was hearing. The ENT recommended surgery to place the “tubes” in his ears. We scheduled MJ for the surgery. “Finally MJ’s speech will get better”. Well…it didn’t. I continued to research information on speech delays and came across autism. I completely ignored the information because MJ had none of the “signs” of autism. By the time he was two years old MJ knew all of the alphabet, numbers from 1-20, colors, and shapes. He also used to watch the “Baby Einstein” videos that would help to reinforce all of the skills I was teaching him. I also used flash cards daily. At first it appeared that he was ignoring me. I didn’t give up. I continued to hold up the flash cards and say what it showed. Finally MJ began to pay attention to the cards and started to recite what he saw on the flash card.
One day a speech therapist came to his daycare to work with another child. While there the therapist noticed that MJ was playing in the corner by himself. She spoke to his teacher and the owner of the daycare and suggested to them that the “parents should have him tested”. After we received this information I called “Babies Can’t Wait” to have him evaluated. After filling out lots of paperwork, having home visits, and school visits, they diagnosed him with SDD (severely developmentally delayed). Clearly this lady didn’t know what she was talking about! Doesn’t she know that my son knows his alphabet, shapes, colors, and some words! Based on the diagnosis MJ began to receive speech therapy while at daycare. Unfortunately it only lasted for a few weeks because he was about to turn three. Three years old was the deadline for services through Babies Can’t Wait.
“The Hard Truth”
When MJ turned three someone from our school system came to our home to evaluate him. Based on the evaluation it was recommended that MJ be placed in a special needs Pre-K classroom. We were excited to hear about this because we had no knowledge of anything like this being available. We were happy that he would be placed with a qualified teacher who knew he had a delay and would help him to catch up. In August 2007 MJ began the special needs Pre-K. His teacher was Ms. Sanders. She was young, energetic, and had the perfect balance of love and discipline. We knew that MJ would be in good hands.
A few months after school began we were called in to have a conference with Ms. Sanders and his speech therapist. During the conference we were told the “signs of autism”. Then they told us that “MJ appears to have some of these signs”. They suggested that we have the school test him for autism. It was very difficult to hear this information. My husband became very upset when he heard this and in particular, upset with the speech therapist because of how she delivered this information. . She was abrupt and said it in a “matter of fact” way. After the conference I had to go back to work. I pulled into a parking spot and cried for 20 minutes. WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO DO NOW??? HOW AM I GOING TO STAND IN FRONT OF A CLASSROOM AND TEACH TODAY? I said the best prayer that I could at the time and went in the school. I honestly don’t know how I made it through the day. And so our Autism journey began…