Thursday, March 19, 2015

Joshua, Part Four

Part 1 Here
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here

I guess I should explain why the diagnosis of autism was so fearful to me.  Because of course, OF COURSE, there are worse things.  Harder things. Much more complicated and tragic things. And I am certainly not the first mother to hear those words. However, in my very limited knowledge of autism I assumed that it meant he would not be able to have meaningful interactions and relationships with people, most selfishly me. Or even if he were able to, he wouldn't care to.  Not being able to have a connection with my child was something that I couldn't even fathom.  And my biggest fear.

I know now that this isn't true.  The autism spectrum is wide and varied and though their relationships may look different to an outsider, people with autism can have great ones.  I should have known from the first time the label was applied to Joshua that we would continue to have a sweet relationship with him.  In both evaluations I heard over and over again how great of a relationship Joshua and I had, physically and emotionally; he would check in with me with his eyes, and physically with hugs as he played, and happily held my hand coming into the office.

To give you a picture of Joshua at the time of his initial diagnosis; His strengths: calm, happy demeanor, some eye contact, good motor skills, emerging ability to imitate behaviors of others, and able to participate in some back and forth exchanges with others.  His challenges: lack of reciprocity (non-verbal turn-taking), communication (expressive and receptive), and disinterest in understanding and  participating in the world of ideas.

One of the reasons we loved Family Compass (the second place he was evaluated and where he continues to get private therapy today) was because not only did they work with Joshua, but specialize in teaching the entire family at the same time.  They come alongside us as parents to meet Joshua's needs and support us in this journey. Some days, like yesterday actually, it's more of a counseling session for us as parents.

After the two evaluations were finished we had been in DC for a little over 2 weeks.  Together with Family Compass and the State Department, we decided that Joshua and I would stay on for 2 weeks longer for me to learn how to work with him during the last few months of our stay in Morocco.  During that time we would do Skype sessions with the therapist and then pick up where we left off once we moved back to Virginia.

(Side note: If there are any State Dept folks out there that are having any kind of push back with Med regarding this kind of thing with your kids, holler at me.)

Around this time my mom came and spent a week with us.  It was a great comfort to me and she got lots of uninterrupted time to bond with Joshua.  (I'm looking at you, G)  We attended sessions to lay out the foundations of how we would play and interact with Joshua at home.  The therapist taped all these sessions so that Joe (and Khadija, our helper in Morocco) could also learn.  We came up with a few games to show Joshua how to reciprocate in play and in turn show him how fun it is to engage in play with people.  This in contrast to going off for an hour by himself and playing.

(This was another red flag I missed, I thought he was just really good at independent play and an easy baby.  Looking back, it was excessive, and he was a little too happy to be in his own little world.)

I was slowly coming out of my shock of the diagnosis and feeling much more optimistic about the situation.  I attribute this to several things.  One, Joshua was the same sweet boy as ever, nothing had changed about him.  Two, all of the professionals we spoke to were extremely positive about Joshua's future.  And three, I was naive.  There were so many things to come and process and all I could see was the tip of the iceberg.

Which was good.  It was the Lord's grace.

With my boy. Tricia, if you're reading this, those are your hot legs in the background. 

More tomorrow...

No comments:

Post a Comment