This is a blog post output from Martine De Luna’s “Write Blissfully” bloggers writing course.
“No one goes very far alone…all that you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.” – Anonymous
A lot of the parents I meet and talk with always ask me questions like, “How did you know?” or “What prompted you to have your child assessed?” or “What was the experience that led you to seek professional advice for your child?”
I always tell them that when you’re a parent and you see and interact with your child on a day-to-day basis, you would know that something is off or different. Call it motherly instincts, or perhaps inspiration, but I really felt strongly that my daughter was put on this earth for a special reason.
Let me to take you back to where it all started. As a first-time mom, I relied on many self-help books, parenting websites, forums and apps, in hopes that these would help prepare me for motherhood. I even hired an experienced nanny a couple of months before my elective C-section so she could help me prepare for my baby’s arrival. A month away from my scheduled birth, we had our baby’s nursery all ready. I thought that I had it all figured out until my child, H, was born.
I remember H was not the typical newborn baby that I expected her to be. When she was born, she was fully matured at 41 weeks old and had jaundice because of our blood type differences. She had to go through light therapy for the most part of our stay at the hospital right up to the last-minute before we checked out. At home, she cried a lot and did not nurse well. About 3 weeks into nursing, she started to get super squirmy, would throw her head back and forth (while attached to my boob mind you) and sometimes make quirk jerky movements where she would “rip” her mouth from my boobs. Surprisingly my nipples were still attached! I distinctly remember crying a lot, feeling insecure and overwhelmed.
When she was 3 months old, H started smiling and interacting with her coos and gurgles. She would often reach out with her tiny hands to grab the colorful and textured objects I showed her. She smiled at the sight of our funny faces and her favorite toys. At 4 months, she started eating puree food, mixed with breast milk. When she learned to crawl and cruise through our home at 6 months old, she explored the objects around her with great interest and agility. A few weeks before her first birthday, she learned to walk without assistance.
She was a good-natured baby throughout her first year.
Shortly after her first birthday, I started seeing H fall behind her peers in terms of developmental milestones. At the age of 1.5 years old, she had trouble focusing or making eye contact. She spun tirelessly while looking sideways; she did not speak as expected for her age group; she tiptoed 90-95% of the time. She didn’t respond to faces and objects and did not recognize familiar people. She didn’t look for hidden objects every time we played peek-a-boo and didn’t anticipate our return when we leave her in a room. I always dreaded feeding time because she refuse to eat without distractions like toys and iPad. It was also around this time when she started getting picky with her food. Toughest of all, she wouldn’t parrot the words “daddy” and “mommy”.
At home during playtime, she would play with the same toys for hours by herself and didn’t really seem to be bothered by it. She likes to arrange her toys in a certain way – by lining and stacking them up. She also enjoyed watching the wheels of her vehicle toys spin as she rolled them on the floor and table. She did not respond to us every time we call her name. It was like she was in her own little world. We thought that enrolling her in a play school might help. In school, she didn’t take directions from her teachers. She would often get out of the line during circle time and roam around with her own agenda.
My husband and I used to ask ourselves if we should be concerned about our daughter. We got almost the same feedback from our family and friends. “She’s probably delayed,” “She’s a late bloomer” or “She will outgrow these behaviors soon.” My husband and I KNEW something was off from the moment she stopped responding. I had a nephew who has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 5 so I knew some of the early signs or red flags. After having a thorough discussion with my husband, we finally decided that it was time to see a specialist.
Our journey to finding a specialist wasn’t easy, like most special needs parents. I remember my sister used to tell me that it took them at least 6 months to get an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. Ours proved to be more or less the same. Our first choice was recommended by a good family friend however, the soonest appointment would have us waiting for at least 6 months. At that time, H was already 1 year and 9 months old and we couldn’t wait anymore.
Thankfully, a friend suggested that we try The Medical City’s Center for Developmental Pediatrics so that we could begin the process right away. The initial screening was performed by a general pediatrician and the results confirmed some of our concerns. We were referred to a couple of their developmental pediatricians but fate proved that we should see our first choice. Fortunately, an earlier slot opened on our second month of waiting. We were finally headed to our initial consultation after 4 months of waiting.
H had just turned 2 when her developmental pediatrician at St. Luke’s Medical Center gave us a working diagnosis of “Communication disorder to rule out Autism vs. Sensory Integration Disorder.” Though it isn’t final yet, we can finally move forward and take all the necessary steps to help our daughter. My husband and I have always believed in early detection and early intervention. I’ve read that early attention to improving development delays will give your child – and the rest of the family – several important benefits that you will not gain if you take a wait-and-see approach until your child enters school.
I wasn’t afraid of the diagnosis, I embraced it because I knew that the day we got our diagnosis was the last bad day. H has only gotten better with services and therapies. It isn’t perfect, but in my eyes, it is such a relief to know that she will be able to get the help and therapy she needs to succeed in school and life. As a special needs parent, I have learned to be open to suggestions, to be willing to follow through on my part to help support and get the help my child needs. Most importantly, I know that I’m not alone! I’d like to share this quote that really resonates with me, “No one goes very far alone…all that you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.” There are so many support groups out there now and so much information to learn!
(On my next blog post, I’ll be sharing my main go-to websites for special needs children.)
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