My son Joshua was welcomed into this world in November, 2000. It had been a difficult pregnancy with premature labor at 7 months, followed by 2 months of bed rest. He was born healthy and his dad, sister, and I were grateful.
The first year was challenging. Josh had trouble sleeping, eating and was often sick. At age 2 he was not speaking more than 3 words. Our first speech therapist assured us he was fine and recommended once a week speech therapy. Over the next few months, as we were on a waiting list for speech services, we watched our little boy slip away from us. He lost the 3 words he had, stopped looking at us, continued to have trouble eating, and continued to have frequent illnesses.
He was on multiple breathing medications, constantly drooled, and lost interest in the world around him. In the middle of his second year, we were told our son had Autism and Apraxia of Speech. Being an Occupational Therapist myself, I was not terribly surprised but none the less devastated.
Other than being told to pursue therapies, we were left directionless. I began on a mission to find out how to help our son. I started a journal and wrote down everything that happened in Josh’s life. I read everything I could get my hands on. Josh went through 2 more speech therapists before finding one that he didn’t run away from. Through all the rough times those first 2 years my husband and I would occasionally see signs from Josh that he really did want to be in our world and needed our help getting there.
It wasn’t until after Josh’s 3rd birthday that he began making sounds again. However, during his second year of life, we began noticing special skills in our son. He had an usual love for numbers and letters. He was counting with number magnets and knew all 26 letters of the alphabet. Yet he could not talk.
In my journal, a particular entry on July 25th, 2003, stands out in my memory. I had arrived at the daycare where my son had attended since birth. Josh was 2 and 1/2 years old. He was outside in an enclosed play area for the toddlers. He saw me from across the play area and looked at me; for probably 20-30 seconds. It was as if he was seeing me for the first time. It took my breath away. He didn’t look at me after that for a long time, but I knew I would reach him eventually.
We continued with therapies and also began the dietary interventions of gluten free and dairy/casein free eating. It was very difficult and expensive, but how could I not try it? What if it helped? Soon our son began talking. He stopped being sick and was taken off all breathing medications. Speech progress was very slow and tiring, but hearing his voice was music to our ears.
Josh worked very hard and was delighted with his accomplishments. Once talking, we found out he could read as well as count into the hundreds and spell 100’s of words. He began interacting with us and occasionally with others too. He was getting closer to our world. Our hard work continued over the next 2 years. Keeping him focused on his homework, and making sure his food was safe, but as close to normal as possible.
Reading in my journal again leads me to the most memorable entry. It was May 2005. It had been a long day with the kids. I was putting Joshua to bed. After tucking him in and saying goodnight, Josh said goodnight to me! I was so happy to hear him return my nightly gesture. I said “Thanks Josh”. He looked at me and said “I love you”.
That was the first time he had ever said those words to me. It was Mother’s Day.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.