Our daughter was diagnosed with autism at two years old. She displayed many symptoms to include, but not limited to: Sleep difficulties- Inability to fall asleep without restraint or medication. Lack of development of pretend play skills.
Repeated behaviors- Lining things according to size. Repeatedly eating elements in cereal in a specific order, leaving the same elements in the bowl each time. Sensory disorder- Inability to function with exposure to multiple sensory or extreme sensory environments. “Stemming”, or becoming fixated with specific patterns, sounds, or textures. This impacts eating, and clothing preferences as well- desired textures only were eaten and worn.
Inability to perform socially- Displaying aggressive behaviors toward self and others. No unstructured development of peer-to-peer play. Aggressive behaviors- Due to lack of communication skills, and frustration felt as a result, these behaviors were directed outwardly toward others, or toward self. Behaviors included: biting, scratching, hair pulling, pushing, hitting, throwing, head-butting, knee slamming, etc.
No speech development, to include physical responses. Inability to read or express emotions, utter sounds other than a lingering “uhhhh” combined with a rocking motion. No development of physical communication such as pointing.
Inability to cope with any transitions- Refusal to touch the floor of the car with her feet, and inability to adapt to transitions as basic as getting into and out of the bathtub., among a variety of other issues. Motor skill developmental delays- No natural tendency to jump or bounce. Inability to follow physical movements, as simple as raising a hand, to tasks such as clapping. Exceptionally delayed and difficult to develop toileting habits.
She began receiving social service intervention at age one. This included home visits, speech, and assistance coping with unusual behaviors. She was referred to psychology, where she was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. At three years old she began receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech therapy, and occupational therapy, as well as intense therapy in the home environment. Follow-up with home therapy is crucial to make any form of treatment a success. She received 14 hours of therapy per week in all.
In-home public school services began at 4, which added an additional 2 hours of speech per week.
At the age of five she entered the public school system, which hindered her therapeutic schedule. Although she did receive an additional hour (two half-hour sessions) of speech therapy, her ABA therapy was eliminated. She was moved from a Autism Specialty classroom, to a mainstream classroom. While social behaviors slowly began to improve, educational progress slowed drastically. After second grade, at the end of which she was unable to add or subtract, she was removed from the physical building of public school education, to a computer based public school system taught at home. She was also diagnosed with absence seizures. Her ABA therapy was reinstated, and physical therapy twice weekly was added. Her behaviors continued to be aggressive, resistant, and focus and attention span were almost absent. Her aggressive tendencies were both physical and verbal, to include statements such as, “I’ll kill you”, “I want you to die”, and “I want to die”, coupled with tears and fetal positioning. She began receiving therapy services from Restore Behavioral Health, with Doctor Melinda Down, and her staff. Therapy services included listening therapy, neurofeedback, and interactive metronome therapy, and counseling. (Approximately April 2013) She was also removed completely from the public school environment, and placed in a self-paced homeschool program. She began learning to cope with her hostilities. Her aggressive behaviors began to dissolve. Her focus began to increase. Her ability to tolerate sensory challenges increased. The time periods she was able to maintain focus began to increase.
She is still receiving all of her therapies. Tremendous improvements have been made in the past year, since incorporating counseling, interactive metronome, listening therapy, and neurofeedback, to include: Tolerating external sensory issues: She has been enjoying going to the theater, has attended an entire NBA basketball game, and is able to remain in overcrowded or overactive situations for much longer intervals. Eating a much wider variety of foods: She is now willing to try some new things. We have added vegetables to her regular diet. (She never has eaten them because of sensory issues.) She is expressing her feelings much better now, telling me when she doesn’t feel well, she needs medicine, she is tired, she doesn’t understand, etc. !!! Focus: She is able to focus on tasks better. She is capable of completely simple tasks independently, like bathing, fixing a sandwich or breakfast, getting her own drink, keeping her desk clean, choosing her clothes and getting dressed by herself, without constantly getting distracted and having to be redirected.
Following Simple directions: Putting her clothes in the wash, letting the dog out (sometimes by seeing the dog is at the door or wanting something), and helping with grocery list, shopping, and putting away. She can be given directions to complete schoolwork, and, as long as she is capable of performing the work, will complete requested assignment independently.
Although we still have many obstacles to overcome, we know that self-sufficiency is not merely a dream for her future. Daily, we are moving closer to the bright light at the end of the tunnel to success!
Thank you, and God bless you and yours always!