“It is in our opinion, after today’s session of testing, we believe Jesse falls under the category of being on the Autism Spectrum.” And with those few words, the rug was ripped out from under our feet and our world was changed. As someone who doesn’t cry, I found myself filling up with tears in a room full of strangers who looked sincerely sorry that they had to be the ones to report this news. After all the medical terminology was said and words I never heard before were thrown at me, I was able to take a breath and ask, “What next?” Our pediatrician gave us forms to sign and told us he would be in touch with an early intervention program to get our son, Jesse, assessed. At this time I knew nothing. My son was diagnosed at only 2.5 years old and all I knew is he was delayed in many areas, such as speech, fine motor and pretend play. We saw the signs, my husband and I both, before Jesse was 2 and I am thankful every day that we followed our gut feeling to get Jesse assessed.
For our family, but sadly not the case for many others, everything seemed to move so fast. Jesse was diagnosed in November of 2011 and we received a call from Heather at Stepping Stones shortly after the diagnosis to set up assessment testing. She explained that Jesse would be meeting with an occupational therapist, a Speech Therapist and a Behavioural Therapist so they could basically pin point the areas where Jesse needed help. It all seemed very overwhelming at the time for us, and our extended family, as no one in our family had any background knowledge of the Spectrum or therapies used to treat it. After these appointments we had what is called a team meeting. This meeting was comprised of everyone who is assigned to Jesse’s case. His speech therapist, his occupational therapist and the behavioural therapist were there as well as a supervisor and his case worker Heather. At this time we were informed when Jesse’s therapy would begin and who his Autism Worker would be. They were all so comforting and caring and never once did they judge our family or Jesse’s habits. I was a bit embarrassed to tell them that Jesse had a habit of chewing on power cords, but without hesitation they all just shot ideas off each other as to how to cope with this habit and how to stop it. I was shocked, everything we threw at them from potty training to eating issues they never batting an eye and had ideas on how to work on these issues.
Jesse began therapy before he was 3. It started off slow, a half hour, then an hour and soon he was going 3 hours a day. He began with in home therapy and then as the need grew in St. George and more children were in the program, Stepping Stones acquired space in a local church and Jesse attended therapy there. As a working family, they adjusted Jesse’s hours so I could drop him off in the morning before work. He truly loved his ASW and he loved going to see her every day. The changes in Jesse were beyond amazing. Before attending the program Jesse had meltdowns for things we could never understand. He would have a meltdown because we had to turn the cart around in the grocery store and go in a different direction or because we stopped at a red light or because a door was opened when it should’ve been closed. Stepping Stones showed Jesse that life would be ok even if these things occurred. I often heard his ASW say “Now Jesse the door is opened and buddy, it’s OK.” He would fuss for a minute or two, then he would believe her and go back to doing a game. They taught him so much and somehow made it fun so he didn’t even realize he was learning as he went along. If I had a question or a concern about Jesse and how things were going, they were always able to fill us in and bring us up to speed with where he was in his progress. He did assessments every few months and we could always see improvements from the appointments before. Also, they taught us tricks to do at home to make home life better. We learned how to do squeezes and pressure massages which would help calm and soothe Jesse when he was having a rough time with something. They also made us aware of items that could be used to help soothe Jesse as well, like a chewie, a weighted hat and a massage brush. After having a child with ASD and going through this program, you feel as though they teach you as much if not more than what they actually teach your child.
When Jesse entered into the school system, Stepping Stones was with us every step of the way and came to meetings at the school with us when we met the teachers and EA’s and they truly helped us with the transition. I was so worried about Jesse starting school but because of Stepping Stones, he was advanced when he entered Kindergarten. He knew his colours, numbers, letters and how to spell some basic words.
So here we are today, Jesse is now a student in grade 2 and with a full time EA is still ahead of his peers in reading and spelling. He is a fun loving little boy who still has the tendency to run if he gets the chance. He has friends at school but can sometimes be a social introvert. He likes to laugh and make you laugh. He likes to swim, swing on the swings and play at the playground. He likes to keep busy and go play in the mud with his dad. He truly has come such a long way and we know that Stepping Stones and his ASW had a major impact on the person he is today. So moms and dads who just had that devastating assessment report, hang on, enjoy the ride because my God, it’s so worth it.
- Marci Lynch