There was a time when I told myself my daughter was just fussy.
That she was in her terrible twos.
Like really terrible twos.
Like the most epic there ever was of terrible two.
When I found myself stuck with her, out of childcare, on FMLA— I was forced to face it.
Forced to accept that something wasn’t right.
That this was more than her just acting like a “two-osh bag.”
That this wasn’t sass or a phase.
This was an alarm at the end of a series of red flags I had been colorblind to.
But I was forced to face it and I’m glad that I did because our lives have changed so much.
My daughter was diagnosed at three. Literally the day after her birthday.
She should have been diagnosed at two but I couldn’t admit there was an actual problem at the time.
But three was still young enough to make meaningful interventions.
Looking back now that she is five, I can say that speech therapy helped her communicate so she could ask for a snack instead of bang her head against the wall.
So she could ask for help instead of hitting.
She could stop biting herself when she was frustrated.
While she still does things like hit herself, throw things, and scream, she can be redirected away from those behaviors and towards using words.
Three was also young enough that she learned to identify her emotions and engage with her toys in play therapy. By play therapy I mean an actual play therapist that came into our home and my own combination of letting her watch other kids on YouTube Kids model playing with their toys.
She is probably the only kid I know that actually appropriately plays with her toys for hours and hours.
I admit that I am not completely sure of her progressions made from OT but I still feel like she will be cutting with scissors and properly hold a pencil without prompting soon. So that is something.
Most importantly, two years of ABA therapy has taught her how to be safe and helped us leave our home.
Helped her eat a bigger variety of foods.
Changed our lives.
So three was young enough to make meaningful interventions.
Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy is fully inaccessible without a diagnoses and prescription for it.
Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine being where we are today. And it is because we got help and set up interventions early.
But my stepson, now a teenager, didn’t get help until he was seven-years-old.
He never got ABA therapy, speech, or OT.
He also missed out on inclusion because he has been going to school out of district since first grade.
Sometimes I feel like we were those parents.
Those ones that refused to admit that anything was wrong.
When my husband’s ex-wife first told us about his autism diagnoses (then labeled PDD), we were angry. My husband and I blamed her and we disagreed because he was smart, he talked, and we blamed her untraditional lifestyle for it.
I am not sure I ever truly understood it until we went through this with our daughter.
Now we are at a point where he is entering high school and I reflect on all of the interventions he didn’t receive and wonder if he will be ready.
Ready to learn next to his typical peers.
Able to manage socially with peer pressures and situations he might not be prepared for.
Parenting young children with autism and teenagers brings completely different challenges.
If I could go back, I wouldn’t be afraid of the diagnoses because the earlier a child gets interventions, the more successful they could be. And just because a child doesn’t have a diagnoses, doesn’t mean they don’t have autism.