"I'm sorry to tell you this...but your son has Autism" is what I heard when I brought my son in to see a Pediatric Neurologist for Febrile Seizures. I didn't believe her. My thoughts were that I understood my son, his gestures, grunts etc. I felt he was just a little delayed because we answered for him. I already have a son with Autism and they were not the same. I'm his mother- how could I miss any signs??
He was seen by the Developmental Team and was diagnosed with Autism. At the time I had mixed feelings. I heard about Stepping Stones but didn't know enough information. My oldest son had a late diagnosis and we missed early intervention. I had received a lot of negative feedback from outsiders and was skeptical. But, I tried to remain positive. I met with his Clinical Supervisor and to be honest it happened so fast I was still processing it all. My initial thought when I went on a tour was that I didn't like how loud it was in there and at times messy. I wasn't sure if anyone would know how to handle a meltdown, would he be hugged when he cried, or are they nice people? I didn't leave my children with anyone. Only two family members. I felt that I would try it for a couple of months and see. The first month I hovered around Stepping Stones. Everyone knew my name pretty fast. My son only spoke 5 words maximum, he would gesture a lot, flapping, no eye contact, no engagement, usually unresponsive to his name, obsession with chicken nuggets and cars.. the list continues. I slowly began seeing progress. He loved going there. I stopped hovering and kept positive. More words started coming out of his mouth. Steady eye contact for long periods of time. He started to take my hand and show me his toys. These were new things that he didn't do before. I was sitting in the lobby one day and I hear "HI MOM!" I cried. Magical words I'd never heard before. That was MY son who said that. I cried like a baby in my car on the way home. More words and more words. Now full sentences. Flapping rarely happened. He was social. He engaged with people. Every day I saw something new. Things he'd never said or done before. The communication with his Clinical Supervisor and ASW's was amazing. I finally felt like for once my family belonged somewhere- HERE! No judgments, no rejection,no pity faces. I met other parents that "got it". And then my view point of it being messy there and a little loud there changed. Stepping Stones encouraged my son to be himself. They were able to bring out so much more of him. His positive reinforcements were messy ones. A shredded paper party, playing with shaving cream or whipped cream, using the water table, using moon sand so many messy things! It worked! Those made him so happy, made him laugh and he had FUN! No wonder he loved going there- he had so much fun! He now has a full vocabulary as a neurotypical child does. His eye contact is amazing. He is a social butterfly, very expressive with his emotions, engages with peers and adults, great communication skills. These are so important to have in life to build trust and relationships with people. And be confident. I am beyond proud of him and give so much thanks to Stepping Stones. The methods worked for him even if it meant messy or being loud and laughing! :)
I took the Autism Course to better myself as a parent and have a better understanding. The passion and love they had for my son- I cannot say thank you enough! Makes me emotional to think of our 3 year journey with the Stepping Stones "family". I work for them now because of our experience and have no regrets ♥ Thank you.