Last week marked the one year anniversary of Shaun's diagnosis with autism, and what a year it has been. For me, the diagnosis brought on a roller coaster of emotions. Never once did I give up on Shaun, but that didn't stop the worry as a parent that he was going to have to work so much harder than most. Or the fear of the unknown future. Or the guilt and worry that there was something we could have done to prevent this, or something that had caused it, or that we missed the early signs and could have gotten him the help he needed sooner. Or even the anger towards the doctor who told us that there was no way possible that Shaun would ever be diagnosed with autism. For the most part I have moved on from the initial negative reactions and have accepted that this is the hand we have been dealt. As I have said many times before, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that Shaun has and will continue to touch many people.
Even though it's only been a year, it's hard to look back and remember life before autism. Shaun has come such a long way with his therapies! I have touched on this progress in past blogs and on Facebook as well, so I won't bore you with too many details, but a few major milestones cannot go without mentioning. Through ABA therapy and our own understanding of how to draw it out of him, Shaun's eye contact has improved greatly- though it's not always consistent. He has made great improvements in speech and has recently started appropriately using the phrase, "I want". This is huge for him and is a positive stepping stone on the way to actually communicating more with us! He has made a great friend in school whom he loves. And the list goes on. Of course he still has his weaknesses that we continue to work on, such as not responding to his name (9 times out of 10), but I am confident these things will come, slowly but surely, in the years ahead. I try not to focus on these shortcomings as much as the accomplishments anyway!
A few big things have happened in the past few months that are worth mentioning as well. The first and biggest thing is that Shaun started school. This was something I was not too excited about in the beginning, after all he's only 3 and had never been away from me, but it has turned out to be a great thing for him. It was through school that the 'I want' came along and he is thriving in the school environment. I have seen such a positive change in him. This is also where he met his best friend, and he loves going to school to play with him! As a parent of a child on the spectrum, having a great friend like this is something that you hope for for your child and I'm so happy that they have found this in each other.
The second big thing was our participation in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. It was earlier this month and a great way to start the month that could very well have been very negative for me. While I know that not all agree with AS, for us it was about showing support and raising awareness and I truly believe we accomplished that. It also showed me what great friends we have and a great support system Shaun has as well.
Despite it all, we have been truly blessed this year and I continue to pray that these blessings continue on in the years to come. Thank you to all of the family and friends who have stuck with us and helped us through everything, and to the new friends whom I have met along the way!