A Family Grows Closer Through an Autism Diagnosis
My son PJ had turned 2 about a month before we received his autism diagnosis. We had no idea what was in store for our family.
That was in January 2012. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 2 years since that day. PJ is now 4 and a half. We have learned enough lessons to last a lifetime, and we still have a lifetime ahead of us.
Being the parent of a special needs child is like walking a long tightrope. It’s precarious and difficult, and there is always the risk of falling. But the pure exhilaration and love for the journey keep you going.
The Early Days
After receiving PJ’s diagnosis, our time revolved around the therapies PJ received through our state’s Early Intervention Program. Nearly every morning women, who we grew to love, would come into our home and help our boy meet (and even exceed) his developmental milestones.
Early Intervention is for children from birth to age 3. After that, children can transition to special needs programs in public schools. A few days before PJ’s third birthday, I sobbed as we ended our last speech therapy session and prepared for our first school meeting.
The School Days Begin
School was a big change. For over a year, my husband and I sat in on every therapy session, watching PJ learn and taking note of his progress.
The morning of his third birthday, we slipped a band-new book bag over PJ’s shoulders and sent him off to pre-school. He was out of my sight for hours, and his care was completely in someone else’s hands.
For this wildly over-protective mama, this was a big stinkin' deal. PJ displayed zero separation anxiety, and I cried into my morning coffee for a month.
Year Two and Counting
Now it’s June, and PJ is getting ready to complete his second year of pre-school.
We are 2 years into this journey, and PJ is improving every day. He is reading sight words and counting to 50. His communications skills are still delayed but have improved by leaps and bounds.
Growing as a Family
As PJ’s parents, we're also learning and improving, even on the days when it feels like we haven’t learned anything! There are lots of those days, and I have to remind myself that parents of all types of children feel like that sometimes.
I had a vision of parenthood, and at first, I thought that PJ’s diagnosis changed all that. But I’ve come to learn that being PJ’s mom is full of all of the joy, fun, and yes, challenges that I dreamed about when I was pregnant. As a family, we learn, grow, make mistakes, and love PJ with all of our hearts.
Updated June 6, 2016