TRAVELING LIFE'S JOURNEY WITH A DIFFERENT ROADMAP.
WHEN DID I KNOW?
People often ask, when did you know? Not when was he diagnosed (2014) but when was I sure it was Autism. I knew early on that Brayden's development was different. He began sitting up around 6 months and as soon as his core strength stabilized, he began to rock... a lot. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that we bought him an exercauser to play in but then quickly found that he would get upset once removed from it. He rocked most of the time. While playing, while in his high chair, and when sitting in his carseat, he would "bang" his head to stim. At about 15 months of age, he cracked his wooden crib rails in half with the back of his head and then moved onto sheetrock once in a toddler bed. Did any of this "hurt" him? No. He showed no awareness of a pain sensation but would become distressed if prevented from the motion. Today, we have progressed from this point and he can better regulate his needs.
- Meltdowns (not tantrums)
- Limited interests
- Lack of interest in peers
- Lining objects repeatedly
- Sensitivity to loud noises and crowded spaces
- Lack of emotion when hurt
- Inability to transition from preferred activities
- Lack of empathy towards others
For signs and symptoms of autism, this is a great resource.
EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY
My biggest and best piece of advice is to fight for that diagnosis. The first 5 years of life are the most formative. Brayden was evaluated four times before receiving a diagnosis of PDD-NOS in 2014. He wasn't eligible for CDSA services under their criteria. It wasn't until he was evaluated by the Clinical Director of TEACCH Charlotte that we received his diagnoses. Autism has a high comorbidity rate with other diagnoses and B 's include ADHD and anxiety as well. The benefit to having the diagnosis is access to services such as ABA therapy and the Innovations Waiver. In his birth-three years B also also experienced a couple of surgeries due to some medical concerns and received access to occupational therapy as well as play therapy services. He was evaluated again (for services) by TEACCH in 2017 (at the age of seven) under the DSM-5 and has an ASD diagnosis as defined by the DSM-5. Insurance is covering more now for our kiddos than ever but it's best to consult your provider when inquiring about any and all service coverage. The roadmap for each child will be different.
Was a game-changer in our life. I discovered TEACCH and delved into the early stages of the FITT model while B was three years old (excuse the awful picture, right). I would go on to become certified to teach this practice and utilize its strategies in the years that I worked Behavior Intervention. I implemented structured teaching practices at home and share these resources with his childcare providers. He was fortunate, also, to attend Headstart in years 3 and 4 which assisted in his development.
We utilized in home services as well as private play therapy sessions though B's "play" has still always been different than that of his same-aged peers. In 2017, I graduated with my Master's degree (concentrated in ASD and child development) and certification in Autism Spectrum Disorder while working simultaneously in early intervention. I will admit that this did give me a bit of an advantage for best practices at home and advocacy with the school system. I am happy to be of a resource to you any time!
THE GRADE SCHOOL YEARS
B has never qualified for special education services. He is verbal (another commonly asked question) and able to navigate a mainstream classroom with the assistance of some accommodations from a 504 plan. If you are navigating this journey, here is a fantastic resource for parents about 504 plans. He still has limited interests (skateboarding, reading, occasionally legos) and, yes, there is still stimming. He has adapted ways to safely fulfill this need but if you ever catch me at a stoplight, my car might be rocking. At this stage, he has learned to adapt behaviors in various environments to interact with his same-aged peers. We've recently begun to navigate more complex emotions such as those in a romantic relationship as well as developing ideas about the future (college, career, driving). I'm looking forward the the next chapter and watching him grow into a young man.
Thank you so much for being here! If you'd like to connect further, you can find me on Instagram or send me a message directly below.