Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When a Man at Walmart Asked How I Can Let My Son With Autism 'Act Like That'

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my son Dominic’s autism journey is that not everyone is going to be kind. People will stare or judge you for the movements your child makes and the public meltdowns.

One of my earliest memories of a public meltdown happened in a Walmart. Dominic was about 2 and half years old, and it was a busy day. He’s sensitive to noises, and large crowds can make him anxious. He became overwhelmed and started to scream and cry. I immediately picked him up and headed out the door so he could calm down. A few people stared at us as I was practically running for the door, but most seemed to try and avoid looking at us. I was probably about 50 feet from the door when a man turned and glared at me. He yelled, “How can you let your son act like that?” I stopped, looked him straight in the eye and said, “I’m sorry my son’s autism offends you!” He quickly turned and walked away. While it may have not been the most polite reaction, it felt good to stand up for my son.

As I was learning the ropes, we had quite a few experiences like that. People would scoff and stare when my son would begin to “fuss.” I was always quick to try and remove him from the situation, but a lot of times I wasn’t quick enough to escape judgment. There were some days when we would get a smile or a nod. Whether or not they understood what we were going through, I’ll never know, but it was a kind gesture all the same.

When Dominic was about 3, we took a trip to Denny’s. It was busier than I had hoped, and by the time we got our food, he was done with our outing. I asked the waitress for some boxes and my check. When she returned, she informed me my food was paid for. I don’t know who paid for our food, but it’s a day I’ll never forget.

Dominic is now 9, and he still doesn’t like going to the store and most other places. But I’ve learned how to get in and out of places a lot quicker, and he has learned how to cope for longer than 10 minutes. I’ve also learned how to read him a lot better, and I can typically see if an outing is going to end in a meltdown. If that’s the case, I let him stay at home. If staying at home isn’t an option, the promise of a special treat or a set of headphones and a good ole’ Metallica song can usually do the trick.

We have grown a lot since that day in Walmart, and while at the time it was both enraging and hurtful to be treated that way, I’m thankful it happened. It prepared me for what was to come.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Diagnosis unknown

Having an older child on the spectrum I am pretty familiar with issues that involve eating or lack there of. When Dominic was a lot younger he had a lot of issues with textures of food. We realized he would pretty much only eat something if it was crunchy. Over the years he's gotten a little better about what he'll eat but back then it was pretty stressful. Fast forward to about 2 years ago. Ukiah was about 6 months old and we decided to go ahead and give solids a try. We decided to start out with some avocado. We weren't too successful with our first attempt but he was only 6 months old and nursing was still going strong so we weren't worried about it.

As time went on we continued to try a variety of fruits and veggies. Eventually he started trying things but would gag with every bite. I knew gagging was a common thing with babies learning how to eat so I wasn't too worried about it at first, that is until it didn't stop. Time after time we tried to feed him and gagging turned into vomitting. We became concerned and reached out to his doctor who wasn't too helpful. We decided it would be best for us to find a pediatrician. At this point Ukiah was around 1 year old and still not eating. He also started having severe tummy pain and was only pooping about once a week.

His new doctor turned out to be really great. She referred us to the children's hospital so that he could be seen by their Gastroenterologist. Not long after meeting with her we were scheduled for a biopsy of his esophagus. Then came the blood test, and then the barium enema, and more blood tests. All the while he's still not eating and on a good amount of daily laxatives that aren't helping. I didn't know a child could scream the way he does when he is in pain. We've tested for Hirschsprung's disease, celiacs disease, they've checked his thyroid and even talks of a tethered cord. He also has therapy inside and outside of our home. He will be evaluated by a whole team of doctors at the children hospitals feeding clinic this July in the hopes that they can figure something out. He's lost a little weight but not too much at this point  thankfully.

After over a years worth of procedures, tests, and doctor visits he has become terrified of anyone or any place that looks like a doctor. Over a year of not knowing what is wrong with my son, why he won't eat, and watching him fall to the ground and scream in pain is about more than I can take. We have a long road ahead of us but I will not stop fighting until they can tell me what is wrong and how they are going to help him.