Our twins, Teddy & Tara, were born on June 24th, 2008. They were perfect, healthy babies. We realized how lucky we were and never took a second for granted as I had had an extremely difficult pregnancy. In April 2009, we were shocked when our constantly smiling, happy baby boy began to withdraw and lost interest in us and most of the world around him. After about two to three weeks of this strange behavior, when he was 10 months old, we took him to the doctor. His pediatrician said to wait as we were probably overreacting. Then, at his one year check-up, he wasn't meeting his milestones - no waving, no pointing, no babbling and no more eye contact. His pediatrician said we should get on the wait list for the Marcus Autism Center. Good idea, we thought. Finally, she was acknowledging what we had seen for the last two months.
But it turned out the wait list was six to nine months. We called around to other specialists. They all said the same thing, six months to one year for an appointment. So we waited, and waited. And Teddy got worse and worse. He would sit and stare at the blinds and endlessly spin wheels on toy cars. He stopped turning toward us when his name was called. He would smile only when we tickled him and soon that was gone, too.
We were so very lucky that in August 2009, friends connected us with TACA. I placed a call and a caring TACA member (a very sweet grandmother) called me back immediately. She told me about her grandson with autism and how well he was doing. She insisted that we absolutely had to get Teddy on a gluten-free/casein-free diet. I finally felt empowered, like I could do something for my son other than just sit around, read about autism and wait for an inevitable diagnosis. Our family finally had hope, which is the best gift we have ever been given.
We started the diet and immediately saw physical changes. In just a few months, his diarrhea had almost completely cleared up. In September 2009, we went to our first TACA meeting. By chance, a wonderful speech therapist was the main presenter at that meeting. We got her business card and she started treating Teddy when he was 16 months old. By that Christmas, Teddy was again able to say ba-ba. We were able start Teddy in intensive ABA therapy at 17 months old. The techniques used and taught to us were difficult, but they had my son looking at me again for the first time in months.
When Teddy finally received his autism diagnosis in March 2010, it was just a meaningless formality to us; we were so far ahead of anything the doctors had to say to us. With lots of hard work, by the time he was 2, he was able to point and clap, and had one meaningful word, “GO,” but he had a long way to go himself. The summer he turned 2, we had another breakthrough when he started occupational therapy. We began the Wilbarger brushing protocol, which made a huge difference in Teddy after just two to three weeks. He started becoming more aware of his surroundings. Suddenly his speech goals and ABA goals were being knocked out one-by-one. I couldn’t believe the attention he was able to give us and his therapists.
With help from his new sensory diet, Teddy’s speech soared. Soon he was able to put two, three, and four words together. He began to be able to follow directions, label objects, count, and say his ABCs. It was incredible to see. When he turned 3, we had help from his ABA therapist in potty-training him, which went remarkably well. In just one month, the diapers were off and never went back on. We ended up leaving ABA therapy as we found that despite how well he was doing, his motions seemed robotic and inauthentic.
We found out about RDI therapy and gave it a shot. It has given us the tools as parents that we need to truly interact with Teddy and not just quiz him 24/7. It has helped him tremendously with authentic eye contact, understanding non-verbal communication, developing an interest in others, being comfortable with change, and having a natural curiosity about the world -- all things I thought would be out of his reach for a long while. Even more recently, his Floortime therapy has been an essential ingredient in our “recovery recipe” to help Teddy with being more comfortable with his (and others’) emotions as his anxiety has been the biggest issue this year.
With that said, Teddy is a 5-year-old boy who goes to kindergarten, rides a bike without training wheels, swims, swings, sings, reads, writes, gets his face painted, plays endlessly with his sister, draws incredible pictures, makes playlists on iTunes, made his first REAL friend, and is constantly saying “Mommy, come play with me!” He may have a few more obstacles ahead of him, but we definitely have gotten our son back. Thank you, TACA!