Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer of the Unexpected

It's crazy to think that children will be heading back to school this week.  What happened to the summer?  Although I anxiously await the temperatures to begin their decline, the leaves to turn their fall hues, and my baby belly to grow and grow...I can't help but be saddened by the fast passing of my son's second summer (third really but 2nd that he can run around and enjoy), the opportunities to camp abound, and the endless opportunities for outdoor play.  I don't know about you, but our summer has been a whirlwind of happenings that has overtaken our ability to sit back, relax and enjoy the summer days.

In early July and to our astonishment and joy, we found out we were going to add to our family.  This was a pleasant surprise as we were wanting another child for sometime.  We are delighted!  It's so strange at times to believe that I'm doing it all over again...being pregnant is such a blessing and adding to our family a huge blessing!  Park is going to be a great big brother with his passion to those around him he loves.

But just as soon as our excitement and gitty jitters began at the big change about to come in our lives, our family was also struck by another surprise. Unfortunately, this one was not so pleasant.

Following our family vacation over the 4th of July to the Lake of the Ozarks, I took Park in to see his pediatrician for a throat culture.  Since it had been about 6 months since our last visit, his Dr. had some questions and concerns about his development.  As we got up to leave the office, she kindly put her hand on my shoulder and told me that she was concerned Park is showing signs of Autism.  AUTISM...the dreaded "A" word!  I fell back in my seat in tears and hugged Park in fear that her concerns were justified.  He wasn't talking yet, didn't show interest in other children, and had hitting issues that at the time, I had simply given up on trying to stop.

As I tried to drive home with tears streaming down my face, all of Park's strange behaviors began to make sense.  I remember thinking, how stupid I have been that I didn't consider this as an explanation!  When I arrived home I first called my brother who, as stated before, has experience with developmental delays and disorders in children and since we had just returned from a vacation together, I wanted him to tell me that he thought Park was just fine.  I wanted his reassurance.  Unfortunately for us again, he agreed with Park's pediatrician's concerns.  He too had picked up on some very strong autistic like behaviors.  He and his wife (who works with children with autism) immediately armed me with professional advice and recommended I read two books and begin working with Park. Those two books, which helped us tremendously were:
  • Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family's Triumph Over Autism by Catherine Maurice
These two books, on their own, are amazing! I recommend not only those parents with children with autism or other related disorders to read these but also other parents to help them better understand the disorder and the signs.  There is simply too much incorrect judgment on such disorders, more speculation about what causes them than the treatment to overcome them, and too many questions left unanswered (or answered by the unqualified and inexperienced) which in the end is detrimental to the advancement of finding causes and treatment for such devastating disorders.

So after about a week of feeling like I was mourning the loss of my son and as soon as I received my new reading materials in the mail, I decided that I would do absolutely everything in my power to help my son live a normal happy life.  The determination of a mother is truly astonishing...we really will do anything for our babies!

Also, I can't forget to note that we had already begun working with the Early Intervention Program.  This is a wonderful program available to EVERYONE in the United States whose child is developmentally delayed somehow or for children with disorders.  You pay based on your income and the payment is very little in comparison to the wonderful treatment received.  It is a great program and I thank my lucky stars that my new friend Mel (thank you!!!) told me about it back in June.  For those of you in Utah, go here for the contact in your area.  The determination of Park's language/communication therapist with the Early Intervention Program has helped him tremendously.  With only a handful of visits to our home thus far, his progress is remarkable.

We also immediately contacted the Child Development Clinic with the Utah Dept. of Health for a formal evaluation.  They are very busy, as our appointment was made 6 weeks in advance with the pediatrician.  Park's meeting with their psychiatrist is in a few more weeks.

And continuing on that note, it has only been a short time since we were told of his concerns, since we began diligently working with him, following the advice given to us by those with experience, and I am SO DAMN PROUD to say that our little Park is doing remarkable!  He is talking a lot, saying more phrases but still having a difficult time speaking clearly, his behavior has dramatically changed and he loves to play with other children.

I don't know if maybe there was never really anything wrong with Park's development other than a language delay.  I don't know whether his behaviors were due to a confusion in his brain or a confusion caused by something we might have done. I don't know what caused it although I do know that genetics plays a huge part.  (Park has uncles that also had developmental delays).  I don't know much of anything other than that Park is progressing, not regressing.  That is all we care about at this point. He is happy, he laughs a lot, he is now playing with other kids, he has stranger anxiety more and more (which is a good thing as before, he would run up to complete strangers).  He looks into my eyes more and more everyday and to tell you the truth...I couldn't be more pleased with this state.

We had our first appointment for Park's first formal evaluation last week and it went well.  We were there for 2 hours, answering question after question while Park was being observed playing, interacting with other kids and us.  To our joy and relief to say the LEAST, the pediatrician (bless her soul) told us she wasn't concerned about Park having an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She, like us, would have been more concerned a few months ago when he wasn't communicating much at all to anyone other than physically hurting himself under distress (all of which are ASD signs) but now the concern is minimal.  He obviously does have a language delay but we are working on that.

I could go on and on about the last few months of trials and tribulations with the health of our dear baby boy, but I will save that for another day.  Our summer has been a whirlwind of emotions.  Finding out we were expecting and then quickly finding out the unexpected made for a rough time.  I was so upset for some time and with the nausea of my first trimester, I felt hopeless at times.  There were days I was worried that my stress would cause a miscarriage.  Thank god for the support of family and friends...and to those who negatively made quick judgment on the cause of Park's condition...well, they are not a part of our lives any more.  It's truly astounding the protectiveness that comes into play when our children's lives are being threatened in any way.  Once we reached out to others about the news of Park, we of course heard opinion after opinion.  We very quickly learned that these opinions were not the first, nor would they be the last of judgments we would get from others concerning the cause for Park's behavior.  This is just one of the minor trials that afflict the parents of autistic children. Suddenly our life is fair game for everyone's scrutiny, and everyone "knows" just what caused the problem.  Friends, even causal acquaintances, feel compelled to pronounce their opinion as to cause and treatment.  If you have a disturbed child, obviously you are in need of everyone's advice, no matter how uninformed. (Catherine Maurice, 1993)  At one point I was even told I should look into "cleansing Park" because of the vaccines he has received.  Talk about judging...we are no longer associated to this individual as I will never let anyone harm me or my family in such a way...never.   

While we know that everyone (well, maybe most people) are trying to help in their own way by giving us their take on our son, but no one...and I mean NO ONE knows and understands but us the behaviors Park displayed for sometime.  I remember on multiple occasions telling my husband that Park didn't feel like my child.  I loved him just the same, but he truly felt foreign to me.  And I was justified!  He didn't look into my eyes, he didn't respond like most children his age did, and he didn't remind me of me or my family.  All I can tell you is that there was definitely something going on in our little one, but that now he is overcoming those behaviors.  He is beginning to emerge. 

So to end my long explanation of our hectic summer (and why my blog has been lacking), I want to first and formost thank all of you for reading this.  I am so grateful for your support, and so happy with the direction my blog has taken and for its success.  I truly apologize that my blog posts have been few and far between but as explained above, my summer has been trying.  As many of you know, family always comes first.  Any extra time I have is spent sitting down and interacting with Park or resting to help my body and baby #2 grow.  But now as I am feeling much better, Park is doing much better and life at the James's is beginning to settle down a bit...I promise to do my best keeping in touch with all of you.

My deepest thanks to all of you,

Mommy Bridget


  1. Congradulations! You took a difficult diagnosis and, instead of shutting down and playing the blame game, you did what you needed to do to help your son. What a great mom you are!

  2. I had no idea of the stress you were under. I can only begin to imagine as a mother. I am so happy that he is progressing. You are an amazing Mom, and he is so lucky to have you.

  3. Bridget!! That is so exciting!! Keep up the good work!

  4. Bridgette,
    First of all my hat is off to you.
    Secondly, Early Intervention and a determined Mommy can make all the difference in the world for Park. He is truly blessed to have you for his Mother.

  5. Bridget....we love your family and we are so happy that Park is doing so well. I am so proud of you for being so amazing during such tough times. We can conquer anything we set our Mommy minds to! Luvs

  6. What a great post! What a trying time motherhood can be. Try to always remember that those who love you are only trying to help...the best way they know how. Try to give the benefit of the doubt, and try to remember that by shutting out any possibilities we may miss opportunities and answers. I do have a son who was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. And we did use detoxification methods, which did and continue to improve his condition. I took that first advice and knowledge from a friend...I am glad I did. Stay strong, rest well, and continue on your path. But don't be so quick, either, to jump to conclusions that others are judging you...they may only be trying to search for answers WITH you, while feeling as helpless AS you.

  7. Thank you for being so strong Bridget,
    our next child will be just as lucky to have you!
    Love you Bridget

  8. Thank you all for your support on the matter of our son Park. Although, I feel like I'm getting too much credit for his progress. He really has been progressing so much on his own and the love and encouragement from his Dad has made a huge impact on his social development. At this point, ASD has been ruled out but we continue to work with his language therapist once a week. Her work with Park has been vital to his progress. Every day he says something new, he looks at me for longer periods of time and watches my mouth as I speak to him. It's so encouraging to see who my son is becoming!
    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts...

  9. In regards to Hannah's comment, thank you too for your encouragement and for sharing your experience with your child. I commend you for your positive attitude! We do take advice and caring words from those we love very seriously. As for those I spoke of who immediately assumed my son's behavior was caused from the 2 vaccines he was given...they were already a volatile part in our lives and a danger in a lot of different ways. My husband and I would never write someone off immediately for making one comment like that. It was a multitude of comments spanning a few years of friendship that resulted in the ending of our relationship. I should have made that more clear...the last comment regarding my son was just the "last draw". I'm glad detoxification methods are working for your child. I would also, if you aren't already, work on behavior modification methods as much as you can. This made an impact very quickly with Park. If you would ever like to discuss this further, please email me. I would love to chat!