When you have your first child, you look forward to all the milestones! The first smile. The first steps. The first words. The first time they tell you "I love you."
Before D turned two, we started to notice something wasn't right.
We brought our concerns to our pediatrician. She sent us to get his hearing checked, and then to a neurologist for an EEG. We were also told to look into speech therapy. After a lengthy speech evaluation, they determined, yes, he had a speech delay and needed therapy. We checked our insurance, and the only way they would cover therapy was if there was a *possibility* of an Autism diagnosis. Our pediatrician would not write a letter, because she couldn't put an Autism diagnosis anywhere near our son. We asked the neurologist if she thought it could be a possibility.
We were new parents, with "experts" telling us everything was fine. Just a little speech delay. So with no other course of action, we contacted the state's early intervention program. By the time we got through all the evaluations, he was going to be aging out of assistance and placed into the school system, which included a whole new set of evaluations.
D turned three in mid April, and a couple days later he entered a self-contained, special needs classroom for his speech delay. The following month, summer started. So for three months there was nothing. Just a child who needed help, and was getting nowhere. School started back up in the fall, and a couple months into the school year his school speech therapist talked to us, and told us we should look into taking him to a developmental pediatrician.
A developmental pediatrician!?
We had NO IDEA that those even existed. Why didn't our pediatrician suggest that, when we had more questions regarding his development? Why didn't the state program mention that to us? This was our first child, and developmental delays were not something we had ever been exposed to before.
A couple months before our son turned four, he was diagnosed with ASD.
I will admit, when I got that news it felt like a punch to the stomach. Here we were, trying to figure out what was going on for two years. TWO YEARS. As soon as we got the diagnosis, his father began making calls and getting on wait lists. Within three months we had an ABA therapist in our home. But to this day it hurts my heart that he missed out on two years on speech therapy that could have benefitted him GREATLY.
D still struggles with speech, but his speech is coming along more and more every day. It's amazing what a couple years of school and services has done for this child.
As a parent, your intuition is your strongest ally. Trust it, dig harder and persevere. Your child deserves to be advocated for until they learn to do it for themselves.
Jennifer A. Street