My son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. But I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for his Speech Therapist at the time, he still may not have a diagnosis.
That’s how far into the black hole of denial I was.
The funny thing about denial is that no one can pull you out.
You have to do it on your own, but there are people that can be that light you reach for. And my son’s first speech therapist was that light for me.
Deciding to enroll my son into a speech therapy program was a really easy decision. It was actually really exciting. My son would make noises and “babble” but had not said any words yet. He was 20 months old when we met the person that would ultimately show us where the starting line was for our journey that we are currently on today.
The journey of Autism.
I remember when she walked through our door. There was my son, sitting “W” style on our rug, reading a book. She introduced herself to us and my son and began to take out toys for my son to play with.
My son didn’t really give her any attention, and she didn’t force an interaction.
Looking back, I realize now she had known my son was on the spectrum the minute she walked through our door.
The “W” position, the reading by himself, the no interest in a new person, these were all red flags that I had seen and acknowledged, but wanted to block out.
She didn’t say anything that day, or the week after, or the week after that. What she did do was cheer my son on.
She challenged him. She worked with him and pushed him out his comfort zone, something that no one else had ever done.
And in pushing my son, she pushed me. Week after week, she was prepping me. I didn’t know it, but she did. I had been very open with her about how Autism was my biggest fear and I remember her asking me why?
It’s so ironic because the question “Why?” in the Autism world is a hard concept to understand. It’s something that my son is even working on to this day.
And even for me in that moment it was hard to answer.
I don’t know why I was so afraid of Autism.
I remember telling her I was afraid of labeling him. I was afraid of the unknown. I didn’t want him to be made fun of.
“I just am.”
“I’m afraid of him being Autistic.”
And even in me admitting that, she never judged me. She never tried to tell me I was wrong or that I shouldn’t have that mindset.
Instead she pushed me.
She pushed my son.
Harder than we had ever been pushed before.
She started going to my son’s preschool and observing him. She partnered with his teachers to give them ways of communicating with him.
She pointed out every single red flag.
And she didn’t let me justify.
She didn’t let me deny the inevitable anymore.
She allowed me in my own time and on my terms to realize that I was in that black hole of denial. And she was there every week to keep shining that light that brought me closer and closer each week to climbing out.
With each red flag she would point out, that light got brighter and brighter until there was no denying anymore.
That denial was replaced with accepting our new reality and what we needed to do to make sure my son got the support he needed.
I finally climbed out of that black hole when our time with her was coming to an end.
My son got diagnosed shortly after and started a new program. And I never really got to express to her just how much she impacted my life and more importantly my son’s life. Because without her, this mom would still be floating in that black hole of denial.
My son has made so much progress since starting this journey two years ago. And I wish I could say it was because of me.
But the truth is, he wouldn’t be where he is today if it hadn’t been for his first speech therapist – his very first advocate.
She knew what he needed even before I did.
And more importantly she knew how to bring me to that place of accepting what I deep down knew was the enviable so that my son could get the help he needed.
So to my son’s first speech therapist:
This is my love letter to you.
You exposed the hardest adventure I would ever venture through as a parent, but you allowed me to come to terms and process it in my own time.
Instead you were always there to share the magic you knew I would eventually experience on this journey.
And as much I pushed you and the red flags away, you stood your ground.
Not for yourself.
Not for me.
But for my son.
Because you could see his potential. You knew what he deserved. And you weren’t giving up on me until I could see it too.
So thank you.
My son has made so much progress since our days together. And I wish I could say it’s because I had something to do with it .
But I didn’t.
We are where we are today because you didn’t give up on this mom or her son. You were our first advocates without us even knowing. And I will never be able to thank you enough.