Every parent probably stresses over their first child. I remember reading many
books that would tell me when the baby should do certain things. I would
read them and feel very proud, because Xander was reaching all of his milestones
early. He was walking at ten months, and I knew that he would begin speaking
at any time, because he was so advanced for his age. I would wonder
what his first word would be and hoped, like most mothers, that it would
But when his first birthday came and went without a single word, I didn't worry.
And when I brought him in for his fifteen-month checkup and the pediatrician
sent us to a hearing specialist and a neurologist, I agreed with the
neurologist who thought it was too soon to worry.
But when the neurologist got interested in what we called Xander's "spells", I began
to wonder. There were many times when we would talk to Xander, and he would
seem not to hear us. We joked that he was becoming a teenager early. The
neurologist thought he might be having "petit mal" seizures, but I didn't think
it was anything that serious.
By his 18-month checkup with a new pediatrician, we were concerned. He had yet to
acknowledge his five-month old brother and there were still no words. The nurse-
practitioner suggested we contact the local early intervention agency. As we left,
she told me to be sure and mention that he walked on his tiptoes a lot.
I had no idea what the tiptoing meant, but I told the PE-ID program about it.
They also noticed that he spun around a lot. It had never meant anything to us.
Before he could walk, Xander would shake his head from side to side quite often.
And almost as soon as he walked, he would spin in circles for long periods of time.
They told us he had sensory-integration problems, but that they could not diagnose
him with anything.
A special educator and an occupational therapist worked with us.
We did a lot of floor time and tried other things.
We used a little bit of music therapy and a lot of sensory play
and sensory brushing. He seemed to get better. He didn't spin as much,
he wouldn't spend quite as much time lining up his toys and he even spoke his
first word, "no", right before he turned two.
But we had been doing research, and the more I read, the more I believed
that Xander was autistic. We took him to a doctor in Richmond
who diagnosed him as autistic. Her name is Mary Megson, and she has been researching cures for autism. She's seen progress by using cod liver oil with patients. Since then, we've been working on a treatment plan
that includes cod liver oil, various vitamins, and a special diet. We've seen some success, though it hasn't been as great as we've hoped.
He only spins when he gets tired or overwhelmed and he repeats more words. He
just doesn't often use the words appropriately. Xander is in his second year of special ed preschool. We've been really happy with his teachers. Xander adjusted well to the school and has made some progress. Some things are still really difficult. Xander won't stay with a sitter, or even with his dad. He can throw tantrums that last up to four hours. He barely speaks and he has no play skills. We've started a picture communication system, where (ideally) Xander will point to pictures to make requests. So far, he hates it and will start crying whenever I bring out his PECS notebook. We're trying to work with him and are looking to start a home ABA program. He's even doing horseback riding, a therapy which has worked tremendously well for him!
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