Stories From the Heart: A Dream, a Hope, a Prayer, a Life With Autism

It is very important in our lives to dream as young children and to always be encouraged by our parents to reach for the stars in all that we do. When we are kids we are constantly evolving and growing and we are always learning and developing throughout our youth. The time in the life of a young child is very special and it should be filled with hope, optimism, encouragement, enthusiasm, and prayers to God for our child’s good health, happiness and a life filled with promise, hope, dreams, vision and self confidence.

It is every parent’s hope that their child is healthy and able to develop naturally and adapt to the typical changes that children encounter as they grow. We all are grateful for being blessed with a child in our life and we always want the best for them. If a child is born with Autism or some form of disability it means that child will have some challenges ahead in their life, but they should have the same dreams and hopes that every child needs to have in their life.

My son is Autistic and he has challenges that we are trying to help him deal with. At times it seems he will have his share of difficulties and periods of isolation. I only wish that he could realize when he struggles that he has the love and support of his mom and dad and he has many in his corner working to help him.

For many people Autism is not really understood and from outward appearance for the typical person raised in a typical community very difficult to assess. There are many Autistic children who from first impression seem very normal, so when they seem to act out in an inappropriate way, to the dismay of others, it seems they are defiant and unruly. This for most Autistic kids is the furthest from the truth and it seems the parents are thought of as not being able to discipline their children.

The reality is that the parents will do anything to help their Autistic child and they put so much time, effort and compassion into raising their special child so they can hopefully fit in and have lesser outbursts and meltdowns. It is not easy raising an Autistic child and for most families it tests their very limits of patience and endurance and adds a great deal of stress and financial pressure on the family. It is very important to accept the situation and work together with family and all in the support network to help that Autistic child find their way in the world.

To an Autistic child the world can be a very scary and intimidating place and they would rather live in their little place that is safe and free from confrontation. Autistic children tend to have social difficulties and feel that they cannot fit in unfortunately. It takes very committed family and professionals to help address these children with their thoughts and insecurities and help them through these social obstacles.

It is our dreams, hopes, wishes and prayers that help us through these challenging times and give us the insight and knowledge that will help us find the dedication we need to get our Autistic child on the right path in their life so they can have the same chances and opportunities that all children deserve in their life.

The one thing I have learned about raising an Autistic child is that my sense of life and purpose revolves around my son and everything I do or plan to do is for helping him become better and more self confident. Autistic children do tend to suffer from anxiety and have many challenges and it sometimes can be emotionally very trying in their life and the parent’s as well.

As a parent I strongly urge you to never give up on your child and to always show compassion and hold on to hope and provide love, support and encouragement. There is nothing like seeing an Autistic child blossom and come into their own after realizing the struggles they encounter.

To see an Autistic child smile and hear them acknowledge that they feel loved and accepted and to truly help them find something that challenges them and gives them self confidence is the best gift we can ever experience in our life as parents.

The many ups and downs we will encounter as parents raising our children is all worth it if we can set the standard for them so they will benefit and grow and become happy, well balanced, confident and caring young adults ready to take on life’s challenges and have dreams, hopes, wishes and vision. I pray every day for my son to have a wonderful life with Autism.

Dedicated to my son who inspires me every day.

By Edward Iannielli

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart : Children are Unique

Children are unique it doesn’t matter they are regular or disable. They need age appropriate specific content, lesson plan and delightful learning atmosphere to improve their overall developmental domains. The way of teaching Children with developmental delays and Children with special needs are more challenging than typically develop children. The exceptional children need exceptional pedagogical instructions to meet their needs, as an instance.

I teach Preschool Students with special needs, students identified with developmental delays in the domain of language-communication, fine, gross, sensory motor, social-emotional, behavioral and activities of daily living skills. Most of the students were verbal and familiar with their name, but they did not initiate to utter their names. At circle time I used to sing a song with the name of each student:


If your name is (e.g., David)

You are wearing blue

Come to the circle

Clapping, Clapping, Clap

Jumping, jumping jump

Spinning, spinning, spin

And the next couple of days I sang the song, if your name is … appropriate placement for the students for future education plan.  And stopped singing to point to a particular child. The child then uttered his name. I applied this strategy by rotation to the all students. The students were able to learn utter their name, recognizing color, taking turns and following directions to comply all gross motor activities.

Gradually the students exhibited significant improvement in expressive and receptive language, as well as cognitive, fine, gross and sensory motor skills. I emphasized rhythms instead of word and command.

Special needs youngsters require concrete support to enhance their academic and behavioral skills. Hence, the teaching method of special needs children should be on right track. The teachers and caregivers can benefit from implementing potential teaching strategy on students, individual learning strength.

On the basis of students, (IEP) goals, the teachers can apply baseline assessment test to the students to bring out the deficiency on any particular domain. Then begin treatment with appropriate method on this skill, until the students are mastered. The mastery criteria of the students will help to find.

By Dilara Begum, Special Education Teacher

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Qi for ASD

Traditional Chinese Medicine Provides a Research Based Approach to Using Medical Qigong to Help Children on the Autism Spectrum

Parents of special needs children often become advocates willing to pursue innovative approaches to helping their children.  In my case, my eclectic background as a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist and acupuncturist led me to pursue options offered by Chinese medicine for my own children, who have had sensory integration challenges.

Imagine my surprise in discovering that an American medical doctor trained in classical Chinese medicine had already charted this territory and come away with a comprehensive treatment approach that pulls forward ancient teachings of medical Qigong  to treat children with sensory integration challenges, and had published research to demonstrate that her approach supports significant developmental gains in children with ASD.

This Western MD had taken her initiative a step further and was actively placing Qigong in the hands of early intervention specialists and parents via a training program that honors the age old principle that Chinese medicine is fundamentally for families.  Dr. Louisa Silva has been publishing research for the past 6 years  showing that her intervention, “Qigong Sensory Training”, reduces sensory impairment and improves adaptive behaviors in children with ASD.

Her most recent publication draws on Chinese medical theory to suggest that Autism involves the interplay of impaired sensory development and delayed emergence of self- regulation.  Addressing this delay via Qigong can help children fill in missing developmental milestones.

My training provided a lens to review Dr. Silva’s research—which I found compelling enough to invite her to come to the Boston area for the first time to offer her thorough training to occupational therapists and acupuncturists. The training also teaches parents to deliver Qigong massage.  My experiences working with children and parents in the program contribute to my enthusiasm over this approach.  We are already seeing signs of reduction in sensory impairment in the children novice practitioners are treating.

Through ongoing outreach, Dr. Silva aims to expand the reach of this Qigong Sensory Training Intervention.  If you are an open minded parent who wants to engage hands-on in your child’s wellness, consider participating in a QST training near you!

Author Bio:
Maria A. Broderick, MAOM, Ed.D., Lic.Ac., practices Chinese medicine with a focus on child and adolescent health and development.  Maria is a member of the clinical faculty of the New England School of Acupuncture (, where she supervises acupuncture interns in the pediatric in patient unit and the adolescent outpatient clinic at Boston Medical Center. Maria holds a Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture and a doctoral degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University, where she previously served on the Faculty of Education. Maria is a Schweitzer Fellow for Life. She is the Director of Reservoir Family Wellness (www.reservoirfamilywellness), in Acton, MA, where she treats children with ASD with Chinese medicine.

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Special Needs Kids and Team Sports

It is a bright sunny day and the weather is perfect for a soccer game.  The soccer ball is coming fast down the grassy field.  The boys are all trying to defend it by kicking the ball away.  My 11 years old HFA and Asperger son is on this defensive team.  He is ready and kicks the ball out from between the offensive players’ legs.  What a save right?

My Autistic sons’ stories don’t generally end that simple, but it appears after each moment in time, and in this case there is no disappointment.

But then the offensive boy calls my son a name.  It doesn’t matter what the name is.  My son no longer cares about the soccer ball. He heads straight for the player and pushes him to the ground.  Of course this is not permitted in a soccer game and he gets carded and sent out.  His frustration level is high now and he can’t calm down. He runs away to get all of the emotion out of his body, head and later calmly returns.  Everyone is wondering what happened.

It is tough for our special needs children to be involved in team sports. Team sports should be a rewarding and fun time.  I have spoken to many parents that don’t involve their special needs kids in team activities anymore.  It just became too difficult and I am sad about this.

For one, it is such a good way to get the exercise and high level of physical activity our kids need.  Secondly, being part of a team typically enhances friendships because they have this sport in common and enjoy it together.  Generally our special needs kids are lacking in friendships due to the inability to understand the complex relationship in being and having a friend or at the other end of the spectrum because they are the ones being teased, taunted and bullied.

As my son grows older in age, his maturity grows at a much slower rate than the other boys on his team.  He has asked us that we not tell the others that he is autistic because most team players do not understand autism and don’t want to be educated on it.  Now at the soccer games, I am fearful that he will act out or say something inappropriate.

He will outcast himself as he has done so many times before unbeknownst to himself.  We attempt to explain to him these non-existent social rules.  He listens and says that he understands but as soon as he steps onto the field, they are forgotten or missed.  He loves this game and he is a good player.

In the end all he wants from the game is a friend, but the playing field is not fair just like in life.  The lack of fairness in life is a good lesson for anyone to learn, but these special needs kids are already at a disadvantage once diagnosed and to continue this theme in their life just places an even greater emphasis on how much they have to overcome to be accepted.

By Monica Johns

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: “Lila, Mom’s a Witch!”

God blessed me with two wonderful and witty children with Autism. Having worked with Special Needs children for 12 out of my 18 years of teaching, I have always believed that these children should be held to high standards and that we should never treat them any “special.” In my home there is no such word as “handicapped” or “modifications.”

My two children are expected to give 110% all the time in everything they do. Well, one day, I was getting after my daughter, she was 8 years old at the time because she had had a melt-down in the classroom and did not want to do her work. Of course, she became upset at me for getting after her and she called me a “monster.” My oldest son, was 10 at the time and very seriously he tells her, “Lila, Mommy is not a monster!” I was thinking to myself, oh how sweet, Jose is standing up for me. Then he finishes his thought, “Lila, Mommy is a witch!”

So, with friends like them, who needs enemies! I was blown away laughing inside of me, because at least I knew that my children were expressing their thoughts and feelings, even if that meant I was a witch!

By Dalia Rangel

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Ebony, Our Little Boss

Our family has been blessed with a very special gift!  Our son, our grandson, our brother, Ebony (the Boss) is four years old.   He has brown curly hair, big brown eyes and the most adorable smile that could melt your heart.  He loves letters, numbers, music and his family, especially when they are all outdoors.  Looking at Ebony you would never know that he has a disorder called Autism.

Autism affects every aspect of Ebony’s life, and the lives of everyone around him.  Ebony has come a very long way since his diagnosis in 2007.   Since then, he has learned to say a few words, loves to work his computer, his big brothers’ and sister’s iPod touch, has a fascination with words and numbers, is attending regular senior kindergarten this September and loves to be with his family and their dogs.  At home, if you hear a door open to the back yard, the odds are so very high that it’s Ebony heading outside to jump on the trampoline and play with his swing set.

But for all of his intelligence, Ebony still cannot interact appropriately with others.  He has trouble processing the world around him.  He has many sensory issues that prevent him enjoying the things that we all take for granted.  There are three older children, two very athletic boys who play football and baseball ages 17 and 14 and a daughter who is a very talented gymnast and dancer and is 12 years old.  While this is a terribly exciting time for us all as we see Ebony progress, it’s also a frustrating time.

We have learned that Autism is a complex brain disorder that often inhibits a person’s ability to communicate, respond to their surroundings or form relationships with others. Autism spectrum disorders affect people of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and occur in as many as one in 110 births, one in 70 boys, making it more common than paediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.  And the numbers are still rising!

Currently the cause of Autism is unknown. There are no one specific medical treatments or a cure for Autism.   Ebony’s parents are doing everything possible to offer the most normal and functioning life and they work with a fantastic support system ensuring our little boss has a happy life.  Ebony’s older sister is not afraid of what others think and she openly will explain to anyone, that her brother is not a brat but “an angel with Autism”.

This year, as a family, we made the decision to make every effort to increase Autism Awareness. For the first time, and certainly not the last, we walked in the Toronto, Walk Now for Autism as a family team and we put every effort into our fundraising. We held bake and candy sales, charity events, canvassing our neighbours and friends and the children did a remarkable job of getting others to join in.

From the moment we decided to participate, every step of the preparation and fund raising was such a special project for me and as a grandmother; it gave me a feeling of being able to help in a small way.  I threw myself into contacting friends and co-workers making everyone aware of our goal and at every opportunity, I explained to people why this walk was so important.

Ebony is our special gift from God and he is teaching us all so very much!  We know that there is more in that little brown head than meets the eye. His smile lights up a room, his giggles are infectious.  Ebony is the most amazing little man we’ve ever known, and we rejoice in having each day with him.

By Maggie Irvine-Bowles

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: My special needs ASD Child

When I got pregnant at age 39 I knew there was a greater risk of having a child with a disability. I had a background in special education so I knew that if that should happen I would be okay and that I would deal with whatever I was faced with. My late husband did not have any experience with special needs children so it was important that we discussed the possibility we faced in regards to the elevated risk in getting pregnant at my age. He also did not have any issues with the possibility and was bound and determined to face any problems head on.

On February 13th at around 12:35 PM our beautiful baby boy was born. My sister who was in the room for the delivery described him as the “Gerber baby“ and my dream to be a mother was finally realized. Braydon grew quickly and appeared to be developing at an average rate. He sat up when he was supposed to, he stood, crawled and walked when he was supposed to and babbled as most babies do until he was 18 months old. The city sends out a pamphlet to new parents with a checklist of words a child should know at a year and a half. As I went down the checklist to see what words Braydon knew I realized after the first few words that he was nowhere near average standards for speech production for a child of his age. This to me was cause for concern.

The pamphlet included a number of a company for parent’s to call if their child was not meeting the average benchmark for speech production. This company specializes in kids who appear to be speech delayed and assist the parent in giving them tips to help the child’s development. Part of this program was a playgroup for children 2 to 4 who were behind in their speech development. The idea behind the playgroup was for kids to learn how to socialize and acquire new language through play. The speech pathologist from our local children’s hospital assigned to our son who went to those playgroup sessions, noticed that he did not socialize with the other kids and had his own agenda as to what he wanted to do at the playgroup. He appeared to exhibit an attention deficit problem as well.

By the time he was 2 years and 8 months old an appointment was set up at a program that provides assistance for children with developmental and physical challenges to have him assessed by a psychologist to find out what was going on. As we had no one to sit for our son my late husband stayed home to look after him and my sister who was a Special Education Consultant for a local school board went with me to the assessment. It lasted approximately 2 hours and after the time was up we were told we would get a call for the assessment results in a few days. Keep in mind that at the time of the assessment our son was practically non-verbal. He spoke maybe a handful of words at the most and never spoke more than two or three word utterances.

My sister did not expect a cut and dried diagnosis because of Braydon’s age and his lack of speech or language at the time of the assessment and the fact that the assessment wasn’t even completed on the day of the assessment.  The diagnosis was GDD or Global developmental delay and PDD NOS with an oral motor speech disorder.  He also had some fine motor challenges. We agreed with the PDD NOS because of his lack of social awareness and the oral motor speech disorder because that was obvious but we had great issue with the GDD diagnosis.  How could she possibly give us a firm diagnosis when she didn’t even finish the assessment? And how could she possibly know what he could do when he hardly spoke a word?

My momma bear took over when she basically told us that our son would never learn past a certain point and that he would not amount to  much in life considering the” severity” of his developmental delay. We all knew that the GDD diagnosis was not accurate and I was determined to prove her wrong. She felt that because he did not know how to complete a simple puzzle he was terribly delayed. I never taught him how because his speech development was a priority for me, puzzle making was not. I went out and bought puzzles to tech him the alphabet and his shapes and simple wooden puzzles so he would learn how to complete those. He learned his alphabet and all his shapes including octagon in about a month or less. That proved to me that the so called “professional” was way off in her GDD diagnosis and that there was a lot more going on with Braydon than he was able to express.

When he entered Kindergarten at age 5,  I made sure he had an assistant to help him because he would not have survived in that large class without one. By the end of Sr. Kindergarten it was obvious that he would have to repeat kindergarten at age 6 because there was no special needs class who would accept him without a proper and up to date diagnosis. The school pushed us to have another one and in the summer when he was 6 we tried again and the diagnosis was not forthcoming because the assessment was not completed. This time we hired a private psychologist and she could see that he had more going on than he was able to express and felt it was unfair to give him an incorrect diagnosis.

After one more horrendous year in kindergarten at age 6 -7 the school who was convinced by this time that he was Autistic pushed us to have another assessment done so he would get a placement in a coveted Autism class in our school board. In March of 2009 he was diagnosed with Autism disorder. It is considered a mild form of Autism on the spectrum and he has symptoms unique to him which is why it took so long to get the Autism disorder diagnosis. We say he has his own spectrum because although he does meet some of the criteria for Autism he has other behaviours that belong only to him.

He is a joy to anyone who knows him. He does not have any aggressive behaviour, he doesn’t have angry outbursts and he aims to please when he’s not being stubborn that is. For my late husband and me the fact that we had a special needs child was not cause for dismay but a privilege to have been trusted to be the parent’s of our special boy. Yes he is different, yes he marches to the tune of his own drum but he is healthy and happy and that is all a parent hopes for in their children.

By Pamela Thompson

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.


Stories From the Heart: The Victory Over Autism – A Poem of Hope and Recovery

The burden lies with me alone.
Though it is something, I should have known,
My dearest friends cannot conceive,
The deep sorrow that time will not relieve.
Must I explain my every thought?
Why at times I have strength naught?

To say it is a torture would be a lie,
The work involved is worth the try.
To reach the inmost of the mind,
Is the treasure I know I’ll find.
I love what others see as a curse.
Belief runs deep, when known it could be worse.

To see a smile, feel love, hear speech,
It makes it worth the effort to reach.
I say I am alone, but ‘tis not true.
My determination and faith will carry me through.
I may break down; my strength seems to fail,
But hope is there, I will prevail.

I pray to the One on bended knee,
Will help others to one-day see
A child that is already whole,
The beauty deep within her soul.
This day will come with reality,
Until it arrives, patience has to be.

At times alone, yea, I will feel,
But I will continue to work with zeal.
Each goal that is reached gives me hope anew,
My faith in her will always be true.
I shall not give up, I will always be bold
And love my girl with her heart of gold.

By Christina Briggs

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Counting Our Blessings

Many years ago, my husband and I were like many other couples, married later in life, both working, we wanted to have a family, and were not able to conceive. After years of treatments, we finally made the decision to adopt. After many twists & turns, we were surprised by a call regarding a little 8 month old boy, who was being cared for by his Grandparents until a family could be found. Would we be interested in meeting him? “Of course!” we said, and our lives were totally changed from that one call.

It was the first time that my husband had ever held a baby; he just stared at him in awe. Afterward he confided to me that if we didn’t get this little guy, he would be devastated.  A couple of weeks later we were taking him home, he would be ours, and we named him Harrison. We were THRILLED. Little did we know then, that this special little gift held more surprises for us just around the corner.

His paediatrician said that he was healthy, in the 25% range, but that he had not reached some of the typical milestones. He said it might just be developmental delays due to his early care. Good care, love and nutrition could do wonders for a child. Up until then, he had been bounced around a bit within his family. He had also been born w/ some drugs in his system. The doctor felt that we should wait a little longer before having him tested for possible problems. He didn’t want him “labelled” prematurely.

At 3-1/2 Harrison was diagnosed with Autism, and we were turned inside out trying to learn all we could about this puzzling disability, and what we could do to improve our son’s chances. Back then Autism was not in the public eye, like it is now, the internet was the source for information. We didn’t even know anyone who was Autistic. I had to learn “the code” and how to navigate through things like ESE, med waiver, OT, PT, ST, ABA therapies, elopement, meltdowns, 504’s & IEP’s, and lack of sleep. We soon had alarms on every window and door, so we would know if Harrison had snuck outside to look at something, only he had the impulse to see.

Now Harrison is 13. We have since adopted a second special needs child, “Hannah” from China. In the last 2-1/2 years since we brought her home, Harrison has reached many more milestones, many we think have been achieved with the help & encouragement of a little sister. He continues to excel in “baby steps”, and we couldn’t be more proud of him. Our lives are never dull, full of challenges, but we couldn’t imagine living it without this little man’s part in it.

Autism is a blessing in many ways. He has taught us patience, perseverance, joy, frustration, focus, but most of all love. He doesn’t pay attention to what other people think or say about him, he is his own person. He finds joy in the simplest of things, most of us tend to overlook.

He never forgets anything. He doesn’t “get lost”, it’s us who do. He is loyal to a fault: Thomas the Tank is still as important to him now, as it was when he was 3, whether anyone else thinks it’s cool or not. He’s constant & consistent: chocolate chip cookies must be warm from the oven, and served daily.  The smell of them warms my heart, and will always make me think of him, and count our blessings.

By S. Andersen-Moore

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

Stories From the Heart: Potential to Succeed

As the parent of a young college student with high-functioning Autism, I’m thankful for the dedicated special education professionals who work with a most needy and difficulty student population. My son was driven to clinical depression (1st & 3rd grades – shame on them) in a “good” neighborhood charter school.

Teachers there refused to work with IEP required therapists, or provide the modifications and accommodations required so he could succeed (I don’t do that in MY class). I found a little non-public school outside our district as no other options nearby had openings, appropriate settings, or wanted our child. I drove a 75 mile round trip – twice a day for 7 1/2 years to this little non-public school “that could”.

I am forever grateful for the owner/administrator, the teachers and aides for giving my son the chance he deserved. When he was placed, he hit, kicked, screamed, bit people and threw things (all learned at the charter school – he never had such violent outbursts at home until treated so badly). It took one full year before he realized he was “safe” and could sit and attend in class.

Once he realized it was ok to be himself, he learned and has been an A/B student ever since. He is now in a community college, takes the bus by himself and is very proud (as are his parents) of his accomplishments. He worked hard, but could not have been able to do so without those wonderful people who gave him the confidence to believe in himself.

I continue to work with other families of students with disabilities in K-12, because I believe all students have the potential to succeed if we allow them the tools to do so. My son is a sign of hope for the success of their children.

I have no idea what he’ll end up doing as a profession, but I know he’ll be happy and feel proud in whatever he accomplishes. He could not have come so far without that little non-public school.

Thank you for giving my son his future.

By Sonja L

Submitted By Ken Brzezinski

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

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