In 2005, my wife and I had our first daughter. She was less than two years old when we noticed that her development had plateaued and she was starting to lose some of her language and communication skills.
Increasingly she seamed more and more withdrawn, and fussy. We were noticing a lot of behavior that just didn’t seem right to us. Her pediatrician insisted that everything was fine and that she was probably just suffering from a little colic. He told us not to worry. But we were worried.
We got her enrolled in Early Intervention, which is a great program sponsored by the State of New Jersey. It turned out that she was a year behind in 75% of the testable criteria. This was extremely devastating to us.
We felt guilty. It was our first parenting experience, and sometimes we wondered if we could have done better. It was a time of tremendous personal anxiety.
My family’s story is a happy one though. Our daughter improved dramatically through intensive education and therapy. She is still a little bit behind, but she is catching up every day and our anxiety has been transformed into optimism for her future. We were lucky. Lucky in part, because she was less effected than some other children. We were also the lucky benefactors of an extremely tight knit group of parents, therapist, teachers, doctors, charitable organizations, and stated sponsored treatment programs that gave us a direction and a path to pursue treatment and answers, and her an opportunity to overcome her obstacles and blossom into the wonderful little girl we now know. It wasn’t lost on us that things could have turned out much differently.
The reality is that many families have it much harder. Many communities don’t offer the resources for parents that helped us so much. It is sad that autism such a widespread and common diagnosis now, and there is tremendous need for affected families to have for resources, support, and education.
The cold truth is that the world is full of tremendous needs. For families with autistic kid(s), the future of the effected child(ren) becomes the number one priority. But for families recently evicted from their homes, there’s nothing more pressing than food and shelter. There are people in the world surviving without even basic necessities. There are unending worthy causes for those who want to make a difference, who feel a need to make a positive impact.
My personal experience compels me to get involved and give something back. My children are inquisitive about the world and their surroundings. I wonder what they’ll inherit from me. I want them to know that I made an effort to make a difference. I hope you’ll join me.