A letter to myself a year ago

It’s September 2019. You’ve just spent nine months alone with two kids under 2. Aiden goes to an amazing center and is making amazing progress, but you drive 45 minutes one way to get him there. You kicked ass getting him into the best place possible and you are looking at starting speech as well. You live in a house on a mountain an hour, at least, from all of your friends and support system. You’ve been kicking butt in the gym, turning stress into motivation. You’re finally seeing a therapist to work out your internal demons, childhood trauma, and to cope with military life while having a special needs child. You have driven cross country twice without a man by your side, you did have your mom and sister though. You were expecting your husband to get home and life to get easier.

You were wrong. Your life is about to fall apart. You will lose your entire world. That house you bought and thought you were going to raise your kids in, your going to be out of it in less than a month. You’ll spend three weeks pretending everything is perfect because your husband just got home, but in reality you are getting a divorce. You will give up your self respect to try and keep a man you are not meant to be with. You will lie to yourself, to friends, to family, trying to keep your life together. All that progress you made in therapy will feel like a waste, you are going to be admitted to a mental institution for a week to cope with the immense tragedy that just unraveled around you.

You will leave that hospital and go say goodbye to the two women who held your life together during the deployment and the past three weeks, thank you Meredith and Savannah. The next morning you will drive 36 hours straight back to Georgia. You will pack your van with your clothes, some toys, a basket of important treasures, your kids, and your dog. Your son is going to lose almost all the progress he made in California, you will get him into a center but he still won’t be making the strides he was. You’re going to go back to working at the restaurant at night while taking care of the kids during the day.

That’s what’s about to hit you. But I want to show you what you’ve done since then. It’s now September 2020. You have gotten two places on your own, the first one probably shouldn’t have happened, but hey it was a stepping stone. You were able to land a full time job at a company who understand your needs with your children and who have been flexible with your schedule to fit them. You quit the restaurant and can devote the time you have off with your children. You fought for your second son to be diagnosed and to get services. And while it’s never the best thing for a child to be diagnosed, because of his diagnosis, both kids get into the best center in the area. They are thriving. They have surpassed all your expectations in only a couple months, you have a renewed hope for their future.

You are independent, you have been crushing the goals you’ve set for yourself, you’ll even have the associate degree you’ve been working on for three years in one more semester. You get your own car without any co-signers. Oh and you did all of the above with a worldwide pandemic going on. You have a lot of days where you struggle to see how far you’ve come, you think your still in the same place of misery from before but your not. You’ve found peace and solace in being alone, the loneliness doesn’t feel like drowning anymore. You’ve become your kids biggest advocate and make sure they are surrounded by all the love possible.

Aiden learned to hug this past weekend, and while Jameson still beat him to the punch, like he does with most milestones, you’re not going to be able to hold back your tears that both your sons will give you hugs and kisses. Remember two years ago when you prayed for Aiden to just make eye contact? And Jameson, jeez, he’s definitely your kid because he never stops talking. The questions are endless but you prayed for that too. They are changing daily, growing and learning things you sometimes questioned would ever come, and even on the days your world seems bleak, you are there for them. You put down all the misery and anger, you stepped up even more, like that was even possible, to become their solace. Their world was even more destroyed than yours was and if you look at them now, you can’t even tell. You did that mama.

In a year from now, I hope you look back at this letter again and know how far you’ve come, at that point it’ll be two years since you started over. I hope you’ve bought the house you wanted, that you’re well on your way to getting your bachelor’s degree, I hope the kids have blown every single expectation you had of them out of the water like they do now. I hope you are happy with yourself, whether you find someone or not. I hope you no longer get choked up thinking about how “your life was supposed to be”. Baby girl, the life that you’ve got going is pretty great.

Progress & the Future

Today the future got to me, both boys absolutely love their new center. They are eating more, they are excited to get up and go in the mornings, I can view all their progress and actually have communication with their therapists. Jameson in particular has been thriving. He’s speaking short sentences, asking for things, his tantrums are still a force to be reckoned with but that kid is a mocking bird. Aiden, however, is still doing great, don’t get me wrong. He can mimic so much but his overall communication is just still severely behind.

I know it will come, I hope it will come. But it’s still hard to see the other kids. I have friends whose children are within months of Aiden and they are talking in full sentences, they understand where and what things are, getting themselves dressed. But it’s not just children his own age, Jameson is still passing him. There was a time there when Jameson was way more advanced than Aiden but around the time Jameson was diagnosed the playing field was leveled. But we are back to where we were, where little brother is caring for his older brother. I can see Jameson graduating their therapy center by preschool, at the minimum kindergarten. Aiden, I’ve begun longer term plans for.

Do I know if he will need this? No. But based on the progress he’s made in the past two years, I don’t think he will be out of his program as soon as his brother. Aiden and I were hanging out in the couch and he was “talking” to me in his series of grunts and sounds. I know he’s making progress and he’s still so young. But something just hit me like a lead weight in that moment. I thought of when he’s older, what if that’s still how he’s communicating.

What if he continues this communication when he is school age, kids are brutal. I just picture these kids bullying him for his sounds. I already see the way some adults look at him, currently he’s still “cute” enough to get away with it. It’s not a cute for a six year old as much. I’ve raised both my children the same and I have one who had spontaneous speech patterns and one who we are happy mimics a bunch of words.

I don’t want Jameson growing up thinking he has to be his brothers keeper. Right now Jameson helps me around the house the most, he takes things to his brother automatically, he shares his toys with Aiden when he’s upset, he talks to me and his brother. I don’t want a resentment or sadness to build in years to come. I don’t want him to feel like he’s gotten the short end of the stick because he helps more or I expect him to understand more. I read blogs from moms who have multiple kids and the oldest is nonverbal and the youngest questions if the older brother loves him because he doesn’t say it. Thats my biggest fear, I don’t want Jameson to ever question if he is loved by anyone let alone his brother.

When I got pregnant so close together I pictured youth sports, a minivan packed with equipment, and brothers who would scheme and play together. I didn’t picture a minivan with caution: child with autism, may resist help and be nonverbal stickers on it. I didn’t picture deciding between losing hours at work or taking them to additional therapies on top of the behavior therapy they are in 45 hours a week. I worry they are missing a childhood but also know I am doing early intervention to help them in the long run.

You just want your kids to have the best life. I’ve tried my hardest since they were born, whether that’s was buying toys, taking them to zoos or aquariums, everything I do in this life is to make them happy. Then on the flip side I am pushing them out of their comfort zone, we are trying to make their life easier when they are older. Because it’s hard, autism is hard. Society doesn’t get it, even in its “high functioning” form. They don’t understand inability to change, sensory issues, certain movements and sounds, being caught up or obsessed with certain things. I’m raising my boys to love everyone but I can’t guarantee everyone will love them.

Grief

They talk about the five stages of grief in death but not so much when you get a life altering diagnosis. No, I don’t mourn my children but I mourn the ideas I had for their lives. Does this mean they won’t have a happy and productive life? Absolutely not. They will have a meaningful and happy life, they could even end up catching up to peers and living a relatively “normal” life, whatever that means. But now, right now, their life is vastly different. They spend their weeks in 40 hours of behavior therapy, on top of other therapies and doctors appointments. They are pushed daily to somehow communicate and perform life skills that come easier to other children.

It is life altering and yes, I’m mourning the childhood I thought they would be having right now. Filled with daycare and no struggles. I wouldn’t be stressed with doctors, applications, advocating, phone calls, disability. I’ve gone through floods and drowned but came out still alive and fighting for my boys to have the life they deserve. Now everyone knows the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. They don’t have to be in any order. The only reason I’ve noticed I’ve gone through these stages is because I’ve recently hit anger. So I began to look back at the rest of our journey.

Stage one: denial/shock. I knew Aiden’s diagnosis was coming, I wasn’t prepared for the severity of it. Jameson’s diagnosis hit me out of the blue. I trusted the doctors and even went in knowing in the back of my mind what was about to happen. It didn’t help it the shock factor. I actually laughed at both diagnosing doctors waiting for them to say they were kidding. I was met with so many “it’s okays” and “they will be completely fine”. I literally felt suspended in place each diagnosis. I remember walking out of each appointment and it wasn’t until I got in my car that the breath I didn’t know I was holding came out. I was alone at each diagnosis and I remember calling their dad to tell him the news, my voice chipper and full of optimism, trying not to worry him or honestly, myself, determined to “look on the bright side”.

Stage two: bargaining. In my case, it was bargaining with God. I didn’t understand why this was happening. I begged God to not make my kids go through this battle. With Aiden, it was easier, I had the time and energy to completely devote to his services and getting him better, this stage went quickly after his diagnosis. But it came back with vengeance after Jameson. Jameson’s diagnosis was after their dad and I split. I stayed up nights crying asking God how he was going to let both my kids go through this battle and deal with everything else life had thrown them. I had two kids adjusting to moving cross country, losing their father (again), and they both had no ways to communicate. And honestly I asked why he hadn’t chosen a better mother than me, I was short on patience, I had let my marriage fall apart, and I could barely afford to survive. I begged him to take their hardships away, promising to be a better Christian, a better mother, to do anything he wanted.

Stage three: depression. I’m not sure if this was completely linked to their diagnosis as much as all the events surrounded it. I didn’t hit this until the kids were both diagnosed. We were facing our third relocation after we left California, my paycheck was cut from Covid, we were playing waiting games for good services and the mediocre ones weren’t cutting it. I felt like a failure as a mother, that my kids were struggling because of my shortcomings. There were weeks all I could do was keep my children alive. Dishes piled up, laundry was never folded, we lived on fast food and microwave meals. My kids were clean and healthy, that’s the only thing that mattered to me, myself came last. It took my mom and a couple amazing people to drag me out of my pit to get myself together.

Stage four: anger. Currently, me, all the time. I’m just mad. I’m mad at God, I’m mad at their dad, I’m mad at myself, I’m mad at Covid, I’m mad at the military, I’m mad at insurance companies and subpar service facilities. I’m stewing in it, I’m picking fights, I’m furious. I’m mad my kids got the short end of the stick, they have to endure all this therapy just to catch up to peers, why? Did I do something wrong during pregnancy? Did moving so much affect them too much? I’m mad they miss their dad, I’m mad at both of us for our decisions that got us here, it’s not only his fault, this isn’t a blame game. But the facts are they miss him and sometimes FaceTimes not enough. I’m mad Covid has affected every aspect of their life, getting good services, seeing their dad, my paycheck which affects how they live. I’m mad I can’t have more patience and understanding, that by the end of the day I’m not this loving cuddly mother they deserve. I have a short fuse with everything and everyone. We are coming on a year since the boys and I left our entire life behind and the anger comes in waves that I’m trying to dodge.

Stage five: acceptance, to be determined. I really thought I hit this stage, there are plateaus of peace where I think I am fine and life is great. I felt that way when the boys got accepted to their new center, then everything that comes with starting the new center pop up and waves come crashing again. I’m hopeful this will come soon and in a more permanent way. My boys are loved, so loved. I am hopeful for their future and optimistic peace will find its way into our lives soon.

How Do You Do It

I have been asked this question more times then I can count, increasingly so lately as I’ve become more open with the boys and I journey and struggle.

It mainly started when Greg was deployed the last time. “I just don’t know how you drive 40 minutes to your sons therapy one way everyday while also having an infant.” And guys, I didn’t have an answer, I just did it. Honestly, I thought I struggled then. I thought driving from our mountain to therapy and finding something to do while Aiden was in therapy for 6 hours to save on gas was hard. I had a gym membership and a personal trainer, I did school in my van while the baby slept, I went shopping, probably a little too much.

I honestly was exhausted though because I’d still have to come home and take care of two kids after being gone all day. Our lives were filled with constantly being on the move because I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t sit in silence. We had SeaWorld memberships, zoo memberships, aquarium memberships, and more local trips than I could count. I needed something to keep us occupied instead of sitting in a house missing their dads presence.

Then the divorce came, I won’t shed details, but it was sudden. The kids and I moved to Georgia within a month of their dad coming home. It could have been handled better from all angles but the priority was starting our new lives where I knew we would settle down and where we had extended support. “I don’t know how you did it, starting over, leaving your things.” I still don’t know how I made it through this, purely on the backs of my family, both at home and Roadhouse. I was a wreck, I cried all the time, I coasted while trying to restart my life. It took a lot of self reflection and some hard heart to hearts to come out to the other side.

Life got better, I got a full time job, I got a new place (two actually), Aiden started therapy, and Jameson loved his daycare. Then corona hit, childcare and therapy were gone, hours were cut, Jameson was diagnosed, “I don’t know how you do it, being a full time single mom of two autistic children.” Truth is, I have absolutely no clue how I’m doing it. There are days I feel like I’m absolutely killing it and there are days I feel like the waves won’t stop coming. I’m praying the kids start a new center together with better hours, for myself to have more patience, and for life to return to normal.

I’m sure I’ll hear it more, as Greg moves closer and we coparent, as the kids get older and their “behaviors” aren’t considered cute, if I ever have more kids. There are many other moms I say that say the same thing to. Amazing moms who have shared their journeys with me and ones that I cannot fathom how they accomplish the things they do with the grace and strength they have. Things could get much better in my life or they could get worse, I have no clue how I’ll handle it. I honestly can’t answer how exactly I’ve done it up to now besides this, love for my children. Every woman that I look at with the same shock and awww has that same quality, unconditional love. At the end of the day, we don’t know what we can do until our feet are held to the flame and we see just how strong we are.

Jameson

Did you know the risk of having one child with autism is 1.5%? Did you know the risk of having a second child with autism after having one is about 15-20% and it’s about 2 to 3 times more likely if that second child is a boy. I did, it’s something that came up in every autism article when Aiden was diagnosed and it rang in my head in the weeks leading up to today.

We knew Jameson had some differences, he has some sensory issues and oh boy, his tantrums, they rival anything I’ve ever seen and include self injuring behaviors. That being said I still didn’t consider there to be a high chance of him getting a diagnosis. I expected, maybe, a sensory processing disorder or to be told to bring him back when he was older for another evaluation, maybe for ADHD or something more related to his wild nature and tantrums.

Jameson tested, I talked to the developmental pediatrician, the same one who sees my brother and Aiden. There were still no indications a diagnosis was coming. I kind of laughed at the beginning of the appointment, blaming the fact we were there on my paranoia because of the statistics around autistic siblings. I thought maybe Jameson was just copying Aiden a lot, you know, like brothers. Then the words came.

“There is nothing you could have done to prevent this.”

Instant gut punch, anger swelled, and I was instantly transposed to almost two years ago when Aiden was diagnosed. The. Same. Exact. Words. Like a script every developmental psychiatrist or pediatrician uses to soften the blow on the parents when they are breaking the news. She still didn’t say the words. She just kept talking about how his life could be normal, how he could catch up, about therapies and what happens as they grow up.

I kind of stopped her mid sentence and asked “What exactly are you saying? Autism?” She confirmed that’s in fact what she was saying. So I’m here wrapping my head around it, because I was not expecting this diagnosis. I still borderline thought I was crazy for even taking him in. So I asked if that just meant he was less severe than Aidens because to me I felt he was further along developmentally than Aiden. She said no, he’s still severe in regards to severity being the amount of help and therapy they need.

I had to kind of check myself, I’m arguing with a professional when I just sat there and watched her do the same test Aiden did. While yes, Jameson scored differently than Aiden, he’s still autistic. He meets the testing requirements and is lacking in certain ways that while they aren’t the same as Aiden, it doesn’t change the diagnosis.

So now we navigate. I navigate being a single mom to two autistic toddlers, finding ABA care for both of them that I feel meets their needs, finding a speech and occupational therapist that can see them and work around my work schedule, filing disability paperwork, trying to get Medicaid. The path I thought only included on kid now includes both. I will constantly have to check myself. Because while both my kids are autistic. They are two completely different people and their autism “shows” in completely different ways.

Jameson, I promise to give you the same fight I give your brother everyday and I promise to give you every opportunity I can in life and work by your side to make sure you are successful, in whatever you can be and want in life, whatever it takes.

Autism in a Pandemic

I want everyone to stop and think, think how irritated you are being in quarantine. You’re cooped up, you’re routine is off, you don’t have access to the services you usually do. You’re upset the mask makes it harder to breath and it’s uncomfortable. Imagine that when you have a sensory processing disorder, when you have autism, when change is hard enough to cope with. Now throw all these changes at that same person with autism and completely cease all their therapies. A kid that goes to applied behavioral analysis therapy 40 hours a week to even begin to be able to function independently and he’s completely uprooted. He’s throw off his routine, his world is chaos and the one place that can help is just closed.

Aiden at therapy pre-quarantine

Aiden’s typical day went from waking up, getting dressed, going to therapy where they worked on essential skills such as communication, socialization, and overall independence, to home where he decompressed and did it all over again five days a week. Weekends were a hard enough challenge every week but they were doable because I am around the whole weekend. Coronavirus hits, the world shuts down, it’s necessary so the hospitals aren’t overrun. You can’t explain that to a normal three year old, let alone one with autism.

My job didn’t stop, the people I could use for back up childcare, their jobs didn’t stop. My mom, dad, sister, and I are all “essential” with no childcare for either kid. I’m thankful, my mom and I work for the same company and they worked with us so my kids had someone to watch them. Even my brother pitched in a few times to help. I’m nothing short of blessed by family and my job, but it was the struggles of Aiden that hit the hardest.

Aiden regressed, he stimmed a lot, he was upset his schedule changed and now he was going to nana’s house at 6 AM so I could get him by 2. Potty trained halted. I wasn’t putting that pressure on the family helping me. On top of everything else, we moved homes. It was for the better and he’s so much happier in the new apartment but it was still another change adding up his little world. We had bright moments, his imitation seemed to stay and we got him to repeat new words, like “I love you”.

The .02 seconds before he lost his mind

We began adjusting to our new normal and things began to open up. I’m a single mom, it’s a fact of life I have to take my kids with me to stores. Aiden was really interested in the masks at first, wanted one for himself as seen above. That lasted two seconds and he lost his mind, which is fine, kids around his age aren’t really expected to wear them. But my poor heart questions his future, what if this would have happened when he was 8 or a preteen? The places wear masks are absolutely necessary would be inaccessible for him. If the virus was worse or restrictions were stricter in the future, would I be able to take him anywhere?

But for the sake of my sanity, we will focus on now. Aiden tolerates other people in mask, except for me. I tried to put one on in Walmart today and he lost his mind, ripped it right off my face. He was not okay with my face being covered. So what do I do? Do I leave? Do I let my child harm himself, screaming and flailing all over the buggy? Do I shop without a mask? Yeah, I can try to shop without my kids but I still have to maintain hours at work when they are in daycare and I can’t just leave my kids anytime I want any other time.

I’m not writing this because I think the pandemic is a joke or any less serious than it really is. I’m not writing this to say masks are dumb and we shouldn’t wear them. But to perhaps put some perspective when people get this mightier than thou thoughts when it comes to a pandemic. Because at the end of the day my son doesn’t have a voice, people see a mother with a mask ripped off toting her child in a store buying the groceries for the week and they judge. They give looks and make comments.

At the end of the day my fear isn’t the virus, as bad as that sounds. My fear is a situation like Italy where hospitals are so over run they are choosing patients to live, which is why I accepted this quarantine with minimal complaints. It was to prevent that situation. Because my deepest fear and thoughts are this: Would my child be chosen? A child that could very will depend on me or someone for the rest of his life. Would they find his life as valuable as someone else’s? He can’t speak, we don’t know if or when he will. He needs someone to function more than the normal three year old. As he gets older I don’t know the care he will need but will whatever amount of care it is prevent him from being chosen?

It’s a worst case thought, it’s a terrifying scenario to play in my head. But it’s happened, people being chosen to live and I don’t want the way my child was made to affect his chances of being chosen. Are they lining these patients up and saying you have a disability we aren’t saving you, no, I’m sure they aren’t. But if they were down to the last ventilator with my son and another child, would his autism be the tipping point? These are what if’s and scary ones at that, but I know I’m not alone in these thoughts. I’ve spoken with other special needs parents and the thought is present. We want to give our children the same chances as everyone else in this world and unfortunately when circumstances are extreme like they are, our children aren’t on the forefront of decision making. That’s why we are the voice of them, to remind people they are equal, not less because of who they are.

We’re Back! (again)

Hey y’all! It’s been about another 8 months (or more) since I last touched our blog! I thought life was settling down but oh buddy, it did not. The boys and I permanently relocated to the East Coast. We stayed with my parents for a few months until I could afford a little trailer, and then we just upgraded to a nice two bedroom apartment! Life has finally settled down and I’d love to update everyone on how Aiden is doing!

The first couple months were rough, our move was sudden and unexpected. Aiden was displaced from therapy with no warning and it was about two months before we could get him in services again. The amount of regression Aiden went through was gut wrenching. We almost had him off the pacifier, that came back full force. His self stimulation increased ten fold and we lost a lot of progress in speech/communication.

Therapy started back, he was so excited and we’ve gotten into a new routine. He’s been spending so much time with his nana and papa, he’s become super attached. His aunt Ashley is usually his favorite person besides me and uncle Matthew is the coolest thing since sliced bread when he comes around. We are settling down, Aiden does full time therapy now, 40 hours a week. Jameson goes to daycare and is thriving on being around other kids. I have a good job that I love and I’m lucky enough works with me despite having two children who do therapy and are just walking germs.

Then coronavirus hit, thankfully Aiden still had his support system even though therapy was put on pause. He adjusted to going to Nana’s everyday and seeing all his favorite people. But it definitely threw him off. Progress was minimal and slow, he was merely making it day by day. We did squeeze some speech out of him, miraculously. His favorite word (and food) is pizza and we got him to say “I love you” each word individually one by one.

Things are beginning to return to normal, therapy is back with modified hours. We’ve seen some resistance but over all he’s adjusted well. Plus he loves seeing his little girlfriend everyday, watching them interact is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Hopefully as things get even more back to normal we will see an even bigger increase in his skills but over all I’m so happy he’s taken all changes life has thrown at him in stride. I feared it could have been so much worse than what it was.

A Year Later

It’s been a year (and two days) since Aiden was diagnosed with level 3 (severe) autism. I wish I could say I didn’t remember that day vividly, but I do. I remember going in completely expecting to hear the words “your son is autistic”. What I was not expecting were the words that came after, like “below a four month old level”, “does not comprehend basic things”, or “your baby has already begun to pass him”.

See Jameson was around 4 months old when Aiden was diagnosed, Aiden was 17 months. Jameson was already responding to his name, showing interest in things, or following voices. Things Aiden had never done. I was broken that day. I thought I was prepared and I was absolutely not. Reassuring comments were made, such as “this is just his level for now, this is not a projection of his future.” I was still inconsolable, I didn’t want to hear false hope. The negativity ate at me for days and while I accepted this diagnosis, I didn’t want to get my hopes up that he would be fully functioning and not severe.

A year ago, Aiden was spending a majority of his time awake engaging in stereotypy, which is where he would sensory seek by laying on the floor and pulsing his body or shaking his hips. He was barely babbling, making random sounds but that’s it. He had no interest in us or other children, the closer he was to someone, the less he cared. He stayed in his own world, loving his princesses and always holding onto something, usually an orange plastic bat. We went to Disney around this time and it was a disaster, he had meltdowns and I felt terrible he wasn’t truly able to enjoy himself.

Over the past year, he has grown so much! We’ve had a couple tests done for different agencies and he’s shown so much improvement. He is babbling like crazy! He has his own language and he will repeat things, just only when he wants too. His favorite thing to do is act out movies, especially Frozen and Shrek. He can say mama, baba, uh oh, go, get, yay, and a few others that I’ve only heard in passing.

He has become so interactive as well! Eye contact is a constant, he tries to get people’s attention and will pull them to what he wants. He’s trying to take Anna with us in the picture above. He uses a binder with pictures to show what he wants and he has begun using it correctly and frequently. He hugs everyone, he’s started to wave hi and bye, he still loves strangers (oh boy), but he has become attached to those close to him like mom and dad, Savanah, his grandparents, aunt Ashley and uncle Matthew, and his therapist.

He has mastered task completion with puzzles, shape sorters, and bead mazes. He loves books and will even sign more or make a sound to make someone turn the page. His favorite book is Llama Llama Red Pajama and he will throw it at you for you to read to him. He’s starting to use utensils and he’s so independent, which can sometimes be a problem when we try to help him or direct him.

He picks up on the most random things like sweeping or drinking out of a coffee cup with the handle. He blows me away when he just knows how to do something. He knows how to put on hats and glasses but absolutely refuses to wear them. He’s got the biggest heart, he loves sharing food, but hates sharing toys (we are working on it). Sometimes having a built in best friend (brother) is the best tool. He does things to purposely make Jameson laugh, like poor water on him or push the stroller. A year ago, he wouldn’t have cared if Jameson even looked in his direction and now they are thick as thieves. Their beds even have to be touching for either of them to go to bed.

He also LOVES animals, because of this we have added a fish and two cats to our pack, and we want to get goats eventually. We also have memberships to seaworld, the aquarium, the zoo, and the safari park because he loves them so much. It is truly is happy place and I have watched as he has begun to thrive at these places and with the animals. SeaWorld in particular has become a safe place for him, he knows where we are the minute we pull into the parking lot and he absolutely loves watching the dolphin show. We were even able to go to SeaWorld with “his Jessie”, who was his amazing occupational therapist before we moved, and he had the best time. A year ago, I would have never in a million years thought he would have that kind of bond with someone that picks up after months apart.

He has mastered so much and we are beginning to work on more difficult things like direction following or imitation. Imitation is going well as long as he’s in the mood, direction following especially during transitions, like coming inside from playing, has proved difficult. However, his tantrums have gone from impossible and difficult to manageable and age appropriate, because let’s face it, every toddler tantrums.

He has begun to go to circle time with his therapy friends, he still sits separate because he loves to sit in Miss Ashley’s lap. She leads circle time and obviously Aiden can’t sit in her lap while she’s doing that and interacting with all the kids. He’s begun to be able to go outside for lunch and has a much easier time transitioning to coming back in. One major thing we are working on is hand holding and walking with someone. He wants to be so independent that he hates holding hands! While he does usually stay near and I give him freedom, we need him to be able to hold hands in parking lots and busy places without him melting or melting down.

If you asked me a year ago if I thought he would be doing so well now, I honestly would have laughed. I was so skeptical he could progress this much in such a short amount of time, most of it being these past six months. ABA therapy while controversial and time consuming, has helped so much. He only does 25 hours because he’s so young and it’s all in center, some kids do more but honestly, after all the progress he’s made, it’s the best decision we’ve made as his parents and advocates. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings and to watch every accomplishment big and small he makes.

Aiden Update

Hi everyone! I know my last post touched base on what we’ve been doing these past 7 months but I wanted to go deeper into what Aiden has mastered with all his hard work!

It seems like everyday he surprises me, like today, he said mama, multiple times without prompting, usually when he was mad at me. But I will take it!! He was working very hard on his “mmmm” sound with me as well while I was prompting him. He is babbling like crazy and he has his own little language.

Another surprise today was he was acting and out and “quoting” the movie Sheen while it was playing. He would change his voice to match the characters, he would do the body movements (like raising his hand), and he would repeat sounds that he could like “ahh” or “ohh”. It was the cutest thing I’ve seen him ever do and it shows just how great he is at imitation. Just like he willingly plays with his broom at the play center and he knows how to use it without me ever showing him, he’s just watched me clean before.

He has begun to master “come here” which is huge because Aiden is an eloped which means he runs away, a lot. We have mastered it in short distances and he’s doing so much better at staying near us in public. At SeaWorld yesterday he would stop and turn around if he got too far ahead. He also knows “put in” to clean up toys or when we are shopping. Tonight he picked up all the toys in the bath and even pushed his brother out of the way to get to the rest. He will fill my bags with fruit that I ask him to grab and he will put boxes in the cart.

He has mastered task completion doing things like shape sorters, pop up toys, and chunky puzzles. These kind of things used to be a fight to even get him to sit down at. He takes pride in finishing his tasks now and he is honestly content with just a big good job at the end.

I can’t begin to express how far he has come. He’s honestly such a little sponge soaking in everything his therapist and I are teaching him. This is why I stand by our early intervention, hopefully with even more progress he will be completely caught up and even more mixed with his peers.

We’re Back!

After a seven month long hiatus, I am back at my blog to once again fill the world with Aiden’s journey and his smiling face. So much has happened this past half of a year and I wanted to update everyone!

After the holidays we took a big jump and we bought a house, in the mountains, with three acres. It’s beautiful but it’s definitely a change from the connected house and community we were in on base. This meant we also had to switch all of Aiden’s therapies. During this transition, we decided to pause OT, PT, and speech to focus on ABA since he would be getting a large number of hours.

On top of buying the house, Greg deployed only a few weeks after we moved. So not only did Aiden move homes and switch therapies, he also had to adjust to daddy being gone. Honestly, we weren’t even sure Aiden would notice his absence, because when Greg left, Aiden wasn’t showing any affection to either of us. Boy, were we wrong. Aiden learned to point and show the things he wants and he will point to pictures of his daddy or his daddy on FaceTime. It’s amazing to see he still recognizes and wants him when we weren’t even sure how we fit into his world before.

This deployment has been busy too, we drove cross country twice! Aiden got a DVD player in the car so he honestly was the most well behaved kid for the whole trip! Jameson was cutting molars on the first trip but by the second he was a happy baby as well. We have memberships to SeaWorld, the zoo and safari park, and a local aquarium, plus the children’s museums are all free in the summer for military. We have been filling our time up to make this deployment go faster.

Jameson has begun walking and talking, doing everything in stride and picking up things faster than I can keep track of. This is a complete 180 from Aiden who had weeks and months in between milestones, Jameson knocks them out of the water. However, he’s also the reason we will probably be in the hospital at least three times a year because he is a dare devil!

Aiden is doing better than I could have ever hoped, after almost a two month break in services from our trip, he is back in full time ABA, 25 hours a week, all in center because our new home is too far away for in home services. Aiden doesn’t mind though, he’s the youngest (and cutest) kid there so he gets loads of attention.

He is using a binder with pictures (his PECS) to communicate what he wants, as well as pointing or taking me to things he doesn’t have pictures of. He is willing to sit on a swing briefly and he is even sitting in push cars or rocking horses as well. He loves sand and water as long as I clean him off right after. He can put do task completion activities, like shape sorters and puzzles. He is also good at nonverbal imitation such as beating a drum or playing a piano once shown. He is beginning to make more sounds and even though we don’t have speech yet, his babbling is such a great sign.

He hasn’t been doing is stereotypy nearly as much, those who have been around him have seen it, he will lay on the floor and rock to gain sensory input. His tantrums are way shorter and less frequent. He’s like a whole new kid. We are getting referrals to put him back in his other therapies to sharpen those skills now that he has adjusted to full time ABA.

I will make more post about what else we’ve been up to in our autism world like how inclusive Disney was and some of the struggles we have had. I just wanted to give everyone and update since I’ve neglected the blog lately!