My Autism Journey
My life took an unexpected turn in early October 2006 when I received an urgent call to come and help my youngest son with the care of my darling little grandson, Logan. Through the help of family and friends, I was able to make the trans-Atlantic trip within a week. I soon found myself fully absorbed in taking care of Logan 24/7.
From early on it was clear that Logan was extremely active and had boundless energy. When a family member saw him bounce across the living room floor in a “stationary” ExerSaucer at one year of age, she commented that he reminded her of her now teenaged son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, at that age. I had never heard the term before and brushed it off, as surely, Logan was just a typically active and healthy baby.
As Logan grew, we started noticing some other behaviors that seemed a bit different from “normal.” For example, he would excitedly hop up and down in front of the TV while flapping his hands, and walk across the floor on his tiptoes. He was also very slow with starting to speak. On the other hand, he proved to be very bright. He could identify word flashcards by pointing after being told a word only once.
At two years of age, Logan started attending a private preschool several mornings a week. I soon received reports that he was crying a lot, and not behaving as the other two-year-olds in his group. They encouraged us to have him evaluated, which we did shortly before his third birthday.
We were relieved to hear that even though there were some developmental delays, he did not need or qualify for special services. Unfortunately, problems in preschool persisted. After another incident of Logan melting down while having to wait in line and pushing another child, the director called and asked me to come in. I was met by her and several board members, and informed that Logan was expelled because of the incident. They handed me a tuition refund check, and that was it. Upset and saddened, I left the meeting in tears and determined to get to the root of these problems.
We moved to another state shortly afterwards. While enrolling Logan for Head Start, I requested that he be placed in a class with an experienced teacher, who would be patient and understanding of Logan. I passed on his previous evaluation to the school counselor, and explained what had happened in the private preschool. This wonderful woman could not have been more sympathetic and assured me they were going to do their very best for Logan—and so they did!
Not long after this, the counselor contacted me and told me that under their state’s laws Logan did qualify for services. She also suggested retesting right away, as they suspected Logan had autism. He started daily special classes along with weekly speech and occupational therapy immediately, while remaining in his mainstream classroom with his wonderful and patient teacher for the rest of the time.
Even though there was no specific diagnosis yet, this is when my autism journey began in earnest. I read everything I could find on the subject, subscribed to blogs and websites, and worked closely with Logan’s special education teachers and therapists to find solutions to everyday problematic behaviors. We created Logan’s “tool box” together, which included fidget toys, First-Then charts, visual schedules, key ring rules, short social stories, and more. Through working with him intensively at home and at school, we soon saw marked improvements.
Before the school year ended, when Logan was just a little over four years old, we received the test results. Logan had high-functioning Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and borderline Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While this came as no surprise, it was now official.
I never dreamed that my initial three-month visit to lend a hand with Logan’s care would lead to what I now call my autism journey, a journey fraught with battles and victories, trials and triumphs. It awakened a passion in me that I did not know existed. It moved me to try new things and dared me to do something different and out-of-the-box to keep making progress. The books I wrote for Logan were one of these things, the first of which is now available in Turkish.
I hope that my website and children’s books, specifically written for Logan, but published for all children with autism, can be an encouragement to parents and helpful to their children on the spectrum. You can find my books by visiting my Autism Is… website or by following me on Facebook.
Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.