Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Let the Blue Become You!

Today is a very special day. Did you know that?

Perhaps you're thinking well, every day is a very special day and yes, that is true. But today -well today is extra special because it is "Turn the World Blue Day" as it is World Autism Recognition time today!

And, those of you who have been around my blog for a long time now, know why I find this day to be even more special. If there's anyone new to my blog here visiting, I will tell you why this day is so extra special to me.

I have three beautiful grandchildren! My oldest grandchild -now age 16 -is 6 foot 4 inches tall, built like a defensive tackle, smart, sweet, handsome and just plain wonderful! My only granddaughter will be 11 in October and a beautiful little girl she is -looks so much like her aunt, my older daughter, and acts a whole lot like her too much of the time. She's a "DIVA" through and through! A good student in school, she also love dancing and gymnastics and when she visits at my house, you can frequently find her parked at the computer, watching all kinds of videos of dances, dancers and gymnasts and she studies them, then tries to imitate their moves. Sometimes, she does a great job with her attempts to emulate them and sometimes, well -she just keeps watching and trying. Her little brother, who will be 8 this month (on the 13th) is just a total little sweetheart! He too does fairly well academically speaking in school. His reading skills are good and keep improving all the time as he does love to read. Math is not his forte most of the time and I like to think that's genetic from me as I was okay with math but never all that great. But his best and most favorite subject is science and that, he excels at -probably because he is a very curious child and a walking question box at almost all times!

Okay you're thinking, so you have three fantastic grandkids and yes, indeed I do. But two of those grandchildren have something about them that many people consider to be a hardship, a difficult road for them and also, for anyone who is responsible to help them make their way in life then too.

My granddaughter and her little brother, you see, both have autism!

When Maya was a baby, about 7-8 months old, my older daughter and I began to notice some things she did, things she also DIDN'T do too that one normally expects from a baby that age. Mainly that she rarely made good eye contact with us. There were many times from then on that it often seemed that she had a hearing problem as she often appeared to be totally ignoring people when they talked to her. That often becomes something we, as parents or grandparents experience with older children -school age and especially teenagers, that we talk and they totally ignore us! But in small children, is not usually the norm as it appeared to be with her.

Long before she had her first hearing test, I conducted a non-scientific experiment of my own with her and her ability to hear. She always loved watching virtually anything on the tv set and one day, she was sitting in her playpen, busy playing with something there and the tv was not on at the time. I picked up the remote control and turned the tv on. Doing that, the remote makes a very, very faint clicking sound and as soon as that click was heard, Miss Maya was up, standing in the playpen, looking at the tv and waiting for the picture and sound to appear. Yes, that was my way of determining that no, this child did not have a hearing problem!

By the time she began walking, other things became noticeable about her behavior. She rarely really "played" with the toys she had and instead, would often just run back and forth from the living room to the kitchen and back again, occasionally she might see something -a tiny piece of paper or maybe a bit of thread -things that children don't normally select as playthings -and she would then carry that item around all over with her.

But at about 18 months, on a visit one day with her mother and the baby to the pediatrician, I mentioned some of her behaviors and that she rarely seemed to pay attention to what we said to her. Finally, that time, the doctor ordered a hearing test and at the same time, set up an appointment to have Maya evaluated by a team of therapists. The results of that initial evaluation was very unsettling because they rated her as being very developmentally delayed.

How could this be happening was my initial take on this? The child, so perfect in every way, in appearance and yet, something just wasn't right there either. Her mother -my younger daughter -was dissolving in tears more often than not out of sheer terror in her mind about her child.

The result of that evaluation though turned our lives around in that the therapists immediately put a plan into action to have a therapist come to the house and work with Maya on behaviors and another therapist was assigned to also come to the house and do speech therapy with her too.

Thus began a long-term affiliation with a therapist named "Kerri" and another one named "Mandy" -which coincidentally, my older daughter's name is Carrie and my younger daughter's name (used by me) is "Mandy!" Neat, huh?

Those two therapists were later joined by a fantastic lady -Brenda -who we nicknamed the "Toy Lady" because every Tuesday morning she would come to the house and bring some new toy selected for Maya, show it to her, how to "play" with it and then, on Thursday morning, she would return to see how Maya had responded to each toy she received then too! Fantastic the toys that she was given and before long, we had a huge array of more toys than we really knew what to do with! Oh and not just toys, but also from time to time, she would be given books too! This is/was an awesome program developed by the agency we were working with that provided the therapists who worked with Maya too.

It was a long road but with therapy at least twice a week, plus the Toy Lady visit, by the following February, Maya said her first word -"Two." We had been working and working with her, asking her how old are you and then, telling her "Two." Initially, her attempt at the word sound like she was saying "Chew" but we knew it was her pronunciation of her age!

That's what started the ball rolling to get help for my granddaughter. As I said above, she will be 11 this October and is doing remarkably well. I'm not going to post anymore today about our journey and the changes that took place in our household due to what many people thought of as a tragic event -a diagnosis of Autism -because there is so much more of this story to tell.

But, April being Autism Awareness month, I'm going to strive to continue -through the good points and some of the rough ones too -to help others become aware of what can happen with therapy and children with Autism.

It doesn't have to be a tragedy in anyone's life if you look at things from a totally different perspective. I am so grateful today that Maya had this diagnosis and the treatment because for me, it changed me drastically.

It gave me something I had been missing in my life -PATIENCE!

Not enough of it, for sure, but a lot more than I had before and still keep on trying to add more patience into my mode of operation day by day!

Stay tuned! And have a beautiful but very BLUE day!

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