Exceeding the Limits

Our Son – Exceeding the Limits

Our son is an only child. A true rainbow baby after six miscarriages. From an early age, I suspected that he was on the spectrum. He said his first word, “Mom,” (shouted at me) at eight months then said little else besides mom and dad until he was almost three. We lived in Idaho at the time, and I raised my concerns with his pediatrician but was brushed off. Despite his refusal to make eye contact, play with others, and his hyper fixations, the pediatrician reassured me he was fine. The doctor made me feel like I was a paranoid first-time mom overly worried about her only child. It wasn’t until his five-year checkup that the same pediatrician noticed a speech delay and sent us to speech therapy. The speech therapist said he should get evaluated for ADHD and would benefit from Occupational Therapy (OT). I called the pediatrician, and they sent me and his teacher a form to fill out and they diagnosed him with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Inattentive type (ADHD-I). His school then had him assessed by a school psychologist and they felt he was autistic. I went back to the pediatrician with this added information and demanded that he get a full neurological evaluation. The process took an entire year and shortly after his sixth birthday, he was officially diagnosed with ASD and ADHD-I.

Shortly after his diagnosis, we moved to Toledo to be closer to family and bought our first house. Our son had been making great progress in Idaho but unfortunately, we selected the wrong school for him when we first arrived in Toledo, and his behavior changed. We placed him with an aide who treated him like a dog. She even wanted to put him on a leash. He was told he was bad often. One day when we picked him up from school, he had a red mark on his cheek and the teacher claimed he fell into her hand. As soon as the abuses were discovered we pulled him out of the school and placed him in a different school, but he had become aggressive and angry. We started him in counseling to process the distress he suffered and with the hope that he would begin to thrive again.

Unfortunately, the new school wanted to put him in a separate classroom with severely impaired children. I knew that was not what he needed. He needed to be in general education but with an aide. I met with several professionals (his new pediatrician, psychologist, OT, and ST) and got it pushed through for him to get his aide and remain in general education; however, he was without an aid for the first two months which led separation anxiety.

This was a tough time for our family because we knew our son was gifted. He has an extensive vocabulary, is great at math, is very smart (but struggles with testing), is great at puzzles, and understands emotions better than some on the spectrum. He’s capable of remarkable things and can get there with help. His potential is limitless. He can do everything his neuro-typical peers can do. He just needs accommodation as he has a lot of sensory issues (Auditory, tactile, and gustatory.)

He is a sensory kid. By that I mean he can mediate his symptoms (and moods) with physical activity, exertion, and other OT techniques. One of his favorite ways to do that is through swimming. He loves water and he loves exercise. My son is my little fishy and he deeply loves being in the water so it’s particularly important for him to get instruction on how to do it safely. We’ve tried group lessons and his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – Inattentive type (ADHD-I) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis made it too hard for him to focus with other swimmers present. Thanks to the Suzanne Tyner Autism Assistance Fund through Avenues for Autism, our son is getting one-on-one lessons to make his time in the water as safe as possible. It allows him some much needed exercise that’s key to managing his ADHD-I symptoms. Without this grant these lessons would be financially out of reach for him and we are eternally grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to help him be his best safest self.

Our son has had a lot of trials in the past but with all his current therapies he is making great strides. He is very resilient, he has a big heart, and he tries so hard despite his setbacks. The swimming lessons are beneficial to him too and in so many ways.

Story written by the boy’s mother.