Before my son was diagnosed with autism we knew he had developmental issues, we began different therapy’s very early in his life.
The first was physical therapy (PT) the doctors told us when he was born that he might not walk, so physical therapy was recommended to us to help with this issue. The therapist worked with him to stand holding on to things and then eventually we were watching him take his first steps. I was surprised at how much determination was shown by the therapist and my son, it seemed that the right combination of attitudes had him walking in no time. This was late he was about two and a half by the time we got him steady enough to not hold on and comfortable with taking a few steps on his own.
The next therapy that was helpful for us was occupational therapy, (OT) which seemed very similar to PT to me as a mother because I had never experienced therapy before. The OT would work with him on other areas like his oral fixation with both edible and un edible items. I later found out this is called pica,”a tendency or craving to eat substances other than normal food (such as clay, plaster, or ashes), occurring during childhood or pregnancy, or as a symptom of disease.” This definition came from the dictionary. The therapist gave me many suggestions on tools like chewy tubes for him. When he put something like a pencil in his mouth I would replace it with his chewy tube, that way he was getting the input that he needed with a safe item in his mouth. As the years past we had a lot of issues with PICA he would get into our cupboards and find cleaning agents, or in the car he would find the oil for the car, it became very important for us to keep a close eye on his every move to keep him from getting hurt or ill from his actions. For a young child who was not supposed be able to open containers he became very good at taking covers off just about any package he got his hand on.
As he got older we ended up taking him to many different doctors one of which was able to give him the diagnosis of autism. We had been going to therapist before this but when this diagnosis was added speech therapy (ST) was stressed as very important because he is a very non verbal child. ST was a great help for us early in his life because he was not able to let us know his needs, there was a therapist that taught him some sign language, he caught on to it right away. He could tell us he wanted to eat or, when was thirsty, he even learned to tell us when he needed to got potty. As time went on his language developed more and with much work we were able to get him to verbalize his needs which eliminated the use of signs. I still use signs to get him to say what ne wants today. He still understands them and it keeps his speech more on topic and less echolalia.
Echolalia is when he just repeats what we tell him or what was said by some one else. Most of his speech is in this manner or just random things like ” want pizza” right after we just ate dinner. With all this going on for all these years he keeps our life interesting. Everyday brings opportunity for advancement, he is now 12 years old, despite the grimm out look we got from doctors at the time of his birth he can walk, talk, and say I LOVE YOU which they said he would never do. Thanks to therapy, mile stones were reached, and when this happens as a mother I always feel, “better late than never”. The one last thing that I feel is very important is doing the “homework” the therapist give. In my case they would tell me to work on certain stretches, or certain words with him when at home between therapy sessions. When we returned the next week they could tell we had been working on things at home. As a mother I was doing a good job. I hope this information is helpful for other parents out there who, like me, in the beginning are looking for helpful hints on helping our children who experience autism or special needs.