Welcome to my Autism Awareness Parent Interview Series! During these interviews, we will cover a specific theme regarding autism awareness. Our theme this week is Autism Awareness: My Early Intervention Experience.
Now I present to you Chantel who is a stay-at-home mom of three beautiful kids including her wonderful three-year old son Prince who was diagnosed as PDD-NOS…what she lovingly refers to as the “we don’t know what’s going on’’ diagnosis.
Miz Kp: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of autism awareness?
Chantel: When I think of autism awareness, the first thing that comes to mind for me is the thought that it should be MANDATED that every doctor has to fill out a M-CHAT questionnaire at every child’s eighteen-month well visit; far too many doctors are of the “let’s wait and see approach” (including my own).
Miz Kp: How old was your son when he was diagnosed with autism? How old is he now?
Chantel: Prince was two years and seven months old when he was officially diagnosed. He is currently three years and five months old.
Miz Kp: How old was your son when he started early intervention?
Chantel: This question always brings a smile to my face because we are one of the “lucky” cases I guess. Prince started early intervention at eighteen-months old.
Miz Kp: What services did he receive?
Chantel: He received speech therapy, occupational therapy, special instruction and physical therapy.
Miz Kp: How do you think those services have helped him as he made the transition to preschool?
Chantel: Honestly, I didn’t think he was making much progress until he went to preschool. That’s when we got to witness it all come together. He started putting everything he had been working on in EI to use on a daily basis for six hours at a time. We saw changes within the first few weeks!
Miz Kp: Name three things you would do differently or the same if you had to go through the early intervention experience with your son again.
Chantel: If I had to redo early intervention three things I would do differently are:
- I would have stayed on top of my service coordinator and I would have used e-mail as my primary form of communication.
- I would have changed therapists at the first sign of trouble or inadequacy…giving them chances and waiting for change meant I took away that valuable time from my son.
- I would have found someone who has done this before and asked for help to guide me through the maze of paths I could have taken. Hindsight tells me I have made some mistakes along the way. If I had that support I believe things would have been different!
Miz Kp: What advice can you give to parents of newly diagnosed children who are seeking early intervention services?
Chantel: My advice to parents seeking early intervention services is to first know what your kids are entitled to before you make any decisions. You don’t have to be an expert and know everything (that comes with time) but you should know enough to know when something is not right or doesn’t sound right. Ask lots of questions of anyone who wants to do anything to and for your child. If the practitioner or therapists can’t answer you–move on. You have a right to get clear answers! The best decision is always an informed decision.
Miz Kp: What would you like to see done differently for Autism Awareness Month 2014?
Chantel: This might not be a politically correct answer, but, I’m an Aries and I must be honest…I wish they would show that autism is more diverse than the little Caucasian boys and girls that they depict ALL the time.
Miz Kp: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Chantel: Yes. Parents please know that there are different approaches to autism. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Every family is different. Do what is best for you and for your child and try (I know it might be hard) not to compare yourself to anything that others are doing.
Please show your support for Chantel in the comments. You can visit the m-chat dot org Web site to get more information about The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT). Stay tuned for our next interview.