If you told me we would be where we were now when I wrote the post back in March of this year revealing my son Ethan’s speech delay and sensory processing disorder which puts him on the autism spectrum, I’m not sure I could have believed you. We were at a very low point having left a play group and pulled him out of his preschool due to his behavior. There were a lot of tears from both of us. He was frustrated at not having the words he needed to express himself. He was overwhelmed not understanding things like transitions, structure, and having trouble processing things like loud noises and busy situations. All of these were causing him to act out, become aggressive, and have tantrums of cinematic proportions. It was my most challenging time as a mother to date and I have never felt so overwhelmed, frustrated, and isolated.
Then came therapy and Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. Fast forward 9 months. He has now been in therapy for 7 months and PPCD for 3. He has went to Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy once a week since May and PPCD for 5 days a week 3 hours per day since school began in August.
At speech therapy they have worked with him on forming complete sentences, expressing himself, verbs, and actually using his tongue and lips fully when speaking. He has made huge strides in conversation and using words correctly. Just yesterday he brought me an app on my phone and told me “We have this at school.” It was a huge thing for him to correlate that it was the same app that he had at school and then express himself properly in a complete sentence. It’s been a series of baby steps over 6 months that has culminated in it being barely noticeable that his sentences can be a little disjointed and can be a little different than his peers. So much progress that we now only need to go to therapy every other week now! Let the angels sing!
His PPCD program has been an answer to a prayer. With it and his occupational therapy, they work on meeting his sensory needs, helping him understand and be able to complete transitions and a schedule. (This comes in handy for things like leaving somewhere fun or routine things like bath time.) He completes tasks in order. They are educational as in any preschool but also help meet his sensory needs and develop fine motor skills.
His teacher and OT therapists are angels on Earth. Both very similar in that they are sweet and loving and have that “teacher vibe” but they are also firm when they need to be which is so important when establishing routine with kids like Ethan. They have helped him with self help skills and have been a huge support system, resource, and sounding board for me. Their suggestions and tips are making our lives better. We recently had their Meet the Teacher Night and I thought my heart would burst seeing how happy he was in his element and the genuine love he had for his teacher. I loved seeing the the work he had done and knowing that not only was he learning the things he should as a preschooler they were bringing him one step closer to managing his challenges.
Things are not perfect. We still have issues when he gets frustrated with his peers or transitions but they are the exception and no longer the rule. And we have the tools to manage them now. He still can experience frustration expressing himself as well and resort to screaming or tantrums, but again they are few and far between. The fact that I am having real conversations with my 3 year old is a gift I couldn’t even fathom earlier in the year.
We are doing other things I wasn’t sure if or when we would be able to do as well. We are doing crafts as a team now including these adorable glitter trees we made last week. For the longest time I avoided crafting with Ethan because he viewed me helping him as control and children on the autism spectrum have a huge need to control things and crafts resulted in thrown supplies and screaming fits.
We also were able to go to Great Wolf Lodge at the end of the summer and I was very nervous about the noise of the water park overwhelming him. It did take some adjustment for him but at the end he was having a blast in the shallow end which was another victory as he doesn’t like his face to get wet. He never went in the pool but baby steps.
We still have a long way to go and he will be in OT therapy and at PPCD for the rest of the school year and I have a feeling he will be back at PPCD again next year as well because progress is happening but as I mentioned this is a journey of baby steps. I am looking back on this year with extreme gratitude and humility. As I look at how far we’ve come as 2013 comes to a close those baby steps have led us out of a valley and into the sunshine and I know we will get to where we need to be. I have faith in a rowdy 3 year old with the heart of a lion.