By Guest Blogger, Wendy Pedersen:
Let me tell you about Brady. Brady is my youngest son – he will be 3 in November. He is happy, easy-going, loves to be held and rocked, loves to run & jump, LOVES Thomas the Train, can not get enough of being thrown in the air or tickled, babbles nonstop and has the most infectious laugh you will ever hear – trust me on this one. And one other thing… Brady has autism.
He was formally diagnosed in April, but the questions began in December – right after his 2nd birthday. To be fair, the questions didn’t really come from us. To me, he was a pretty typical 2 year old and was (and continues to be) my easier child by far. But he wasn’t talking. And so we had him evaluated. After 40 minutes in my home, the ladies doing the evaluation dropped a bombshell: “what do you know about Autism?”. I thought I knew a fair amount – my best friend from high school has both a daughter and a nephew who have it and I have a playgroup friend here who does autism therapy for a living. And I thought we had ruled it out. After all, both my pediatrician and I had said on several occasions “I’m not worried about autism with him”. Not Brady. He was a late talker – nothing more. No one who knew Brady had any suspicion.
At that point, we launched a confusing and stressful journey to get answers. Brady started special ed for 2 hours twice a week (gulp), speech therapy, ear tubes for suspected hearing loss and waiting lists for an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. All of this at the ripe old age of 2.
I learned one thing very quickly. This is a complex disorder. There is a saying that if you know one child with autism, then you know one child with autism. This could not be more true. Kids on the autism spectrum are even more dissimilar than typically-developing kids. Truly, no two are alike. I am astounded by this. To me, being on the spectrum is like lumping kids with the flu in the same category as those with cancer.
The other thing I learned is that I (and society in general) have a lot to learn. Why are kids being diagnosed at such an alarming rate? (As of 2009, the center for disease control & prevention cited 1 in every 110 births and 1 in 70 for boys). What is causing this epidemic? Is there such a thing as recovery? What is the best form of treatment and what does the future hold for these kids? For Brady specifically, will he ever be able to communicate? Will he be able to lead a fulfilling life? Will he tell me he loves me?
This much I know – Brady has always been special. His conception is nothing short of a miracle. Imagine getting pregnant after years of infertility treatments, early-loss, ectopic pregnancy and FOUR in vitro fertilizations to conceive my then 6-month old. Surprise doesn’t adequately describe it. Brady is here for a reason.
What does this diagnosis mean? Brady is still the same kid we have always loved. We lose sleep, we worry, we fear for his future. But this is not unlike what we all do as parents. It’s all part of the ride. We grab on, we do our best, we love and we hope.
We are about to embark on the next phase of our journey. We’ve decided on an early intervention treatment plan that will involve constant in-home therapy for as much as 40 hours a week. My house will no longer be my own but a 24/7 learning environment tailored to Brady’s needs. It will be a huge adjustment for our whole family and it’s not going to be easy. But we owe it to Brady to help him develop his full potential. I know this – we’re going to hold on tight and try to enjoy the ride.
Wendy is Smarty Mom to precious sons, Drew (4) and Brady (2). She is married to hubby, Doug, and they originally hailed from Charlotte. But a few years ago, they moved their fam to Minneapolis so Doug could foster his creative genius career in advertising. Smarties, we’ll hear more from this Smarty Mama about her fight to get her arms around autism. Best of luck, Wendy & Doug – you are Smarty warriors!