In the last few months, Richard and I have been hit with a surge of information, ideas, alternate ways of thinking that have completely upended our goals for Emma and our thinking regarding autism. (In the best possible way.) I have written about these shifts in past posts – The Evolution of a Perception and A Different World, prior to that Waging War where I was still straddling the fence but was getting close to seeing Emma and autism in a new and, I believe, improved way.
A few things have occurred to me in recent weeks, please read this as it is meant, which is as a description of the process, a process I am grateful for. Some of the words I use are often misunderstood, they have been by me, this is the beginning of that process. Tomorrow I’ll try to finish this post, but for now this is the beginning…
There were a number of factors that increased my terror at the word “autism” beyond the grim way in which the diagnosis was delivered, the less than hopeful and helpful “advice” given to us. There were a couple of things I read or was told that have remained etched in my mind. Such as the pediatrician who advised me to – “Get on with your life. There’s nothing you can do,” was equally as destructive as reading Catherine Maurice’s book, Let Me Hear Your Voice about how her two children on the spectrum lost their diagnosis with an aggressive ABA program. That book was the first of many “recovery” books I consumed like a starving person confronted with an all-you-can-eat-buffet.
Whether it was a diet, the vast number of biomedical interventions we tried, behavioral therapies, 40 hours of ABA, 10 twenty minute sessions of DIR/Floortime every day… you name it, we tried it. Pursuing these interventions was akin to hitting my head against a brick wall over and over and over again. In fact, nothing seemed to make much of a difference, and it was that fact that continued to propel us down the “searching for recovery” road for as long as it did. Because nothing we did seemed to cause any long term continuous progress, in fact at certain points during her ABA program Emma actually regressed, we started looking for more and more radical “alternatives.” Until finally I remember feeling, exhausted, utterly exhausted, physically, emotionally, spiritually, it was as though I’d come to the end of a grueling trek and faced yet another mountain range, there was no breathtaking view from atop some majestic peak, just more of the same and I just couldn’t do it any more. I was spent. We had just returned from a third trip to Central America for stem cell treatments, saw very little change and weighed the risks (which were enormous and like a flashing red question mark in neon lights) we said to each other, how much longer can we do this and at what cost?
It was at this point that we found a literacy program that seemed to really help Emma beyond anything we had tried thus far. At the same time that we embarked on the literacy program, I continued to hold out hope that some sort of biomedical intervention would help her as well. *I am adding this now a year and a half later. – It is with great regret that we embarked on the literacy program instead of using RPM as this has been what has worked more than anything else.*
This past fall like a burst, one final spark of frantic energy I took Emma to a Naturopath who’d been recommended to me, and put Emma on one more radical “diet” not GAPS, but damn close, pulled the few things that she loved to eat from her diet, saw her lose so much weight it frightened me as she refused to eat anything, and after six weeks of hell, said, enough. We put everything back into her diet, saw no change at all, and then felt all the guilt that accompanies these failed interventions all over again. I just couldn’t believe I’d put her through that yet again, (the first time was when she was first diagnosed and two years old.) All those “suggestions,” the well meaning advice, the referrals to the “miracle” doctors who were recovering kids left, right and center, it was a pandora’s box I just kept going to and opening over and over and over again. You’d think someone with intelligence (I like to think of myself as that hypothetical someone) would have said, if this guy is such a genius why isn’t he on the cover of Time Magazine, why is it that no one has actually heard of this person, this intervention, this whatever it was? But I didn’t. I kept trying different things. The allure, the seduction of finding the “thing,” the miracle was so great, all rational thinking was suspended again and again. Add to that – desperation, which actually doesn’t describe what I felt, I was beyond desperation. I was beyond crazed. I was on a mission from some other universe. Nothing was going to stop me from “fighting” for my child. I was determined; I was going to find the thing that would “cure” my daughter.
I went through some of the same things when my son was younger. Everywhere I turned, someone was telling me about some great new way to “cure” him – removing red dyes from his diet, enrolling him in various programs and therapies… Finally I decided that my time was better spent managing the issues instead of trying to eliminate them.
The greatest change for my son came when I stopped stressing out about “fixing” him and really started looking for ways to live with his limitations. It’s so hard not to drive myself nuts wondering if I’m missing something, but I’ve accepted that his AS is not going away. All parents of ASD kids have to make that journey on their own timeline, but it sounds like you’re working toward a mindset that works for you and your family. 🙂
“The greatest change for my son came when I stopped stressing out about “fixing” him and really started looking for ways to live with his limitations.” I love that. Thank you so much for commenting.
I had a meeting this morning and so didn’t have time to write the entire process and had to stop at a low point, but yes, thankfully we are finding a mindset, a happier, and much less stressful mindset in moving forward.
i’ve come to realise that i don’t need to ‘fix’ Zack, he is who he is, and a wonderful little boy at that. But i will do whatever i can to help smooth his way through life. That thought, and finding a few things that help him work his way through or around some of the issues he faces, has gone a long way towards helping my sanity!
Yes, the idea of this child who needs to be fixed versus helping with the specific issues, this idea has been a welcome shift.