My 7 year old son, Devon, has autism. When he was a baby, I noticed that he was not developing at the same rate as other children his age—he was not babbling, playing with peers and was prone to uncontrollable, violent outbursts in public. At the age of 2, my son was diagnosed with autism.
No parent wants to hear a diagnosis like this but once I learned what was happening with my child, my priority was to find the best treatments to help him.
After much research, I decided to embark on the Son-Rise Program, a child led therapy where we wait for the child to express interest in us, such as eye contact, before inviting the child to play with us. We engage with the child for as long as they want to connect with us while using their motivations as tools to extend interactions and work on various goals that we have.
Along with this intensive program, I introduced other forms of therapy, such as Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) which helps the maturation process of primary reflex motor patterns that have not been properly integrated in a person with special needs. We work with a practitioner that assesses which reflexes we have to work on and teaches us specific movements to perform on Devon in between visits. We have seen great gains with MNRI from speech and handwriting to Devon’s balance and coordination.
We have incorporated music therapy into Devon’s program and also have been working with a holistic health coach, who assesses which vitamins and minerals need to be added to Devon’s diet to help his body and mind work more efficiently.
All these programs and techniques have helped Devon tremendously—he uses eye contact, is affectionate, picks up picture cards to show me what he needs or wants and enjoys outings. However, I still could not fully understand what his innermost feelings and needs were.
Most recently, we have introduced a new program, Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and it involves a letter board so that Devon can spell out what is going through his mind including his interests and feelings. This technique has been remarkable in showing me that Devon's mind is like any typical boy his age and he understands everything that is taught to him. The challenge lies in the brain/body connection which makes it hard for Devon to show what he knows.
Devon spelled out that he loves space (planets, stars etc.) and I was blown away because Devon hadn’t been exposed to lot of games, shows or books that involved space and now he was able to communicate with me that this topic was of interest. Since this discovery, we have spent a lot of time reading books, doing lessons and activities revolving around space and he really enjoys it.
During our music therapy program, there was a particular activity requiring Devon to wear headphones. However, Devon was refusing the headphones and I was feeling frustrated that this therapy was now becoming a struggle. I finally asked Devon to tell me why he didn’t want the headphones on and he spelled out “problem lip molal”. I assumed that he meant “molar” and that the vibration from the bone conduction headphones was uncomfortable around his jaw and teeth, which would make sense if he was having sinus issues at the time. I wouldn’t have known he was uncomfortable if it hadn’t been for RPM.
One time, I asked Devon to complete the sentence “Autism is…” and he spelled out “jabber loud in my mind”. Although I didn’t want Devon to have this experience, I was elated not only that I could understand what autism is like for Devon, but for him to finally be able to express himself. In moments when I am feeling frustrated with Devon’s behavior, I recall this phrase and know that he is trying his best with all the challenges that come with having autism.
I didn’t know if I’d ever hear my son tell me “I love you” and yet he spelled that out and it was one of the most miraculous moments of my life. It’s because of moments like this that I am a firm believer in the RPM technique and why I want to share this wonderful therapy with others.
I decided to document my son’s journey through a written and video blog, “Devon’s Journey,” because I wanted to share this experience with other families on their path towards helping their children. Many parents have assisted me with my journey and I want to be there for others as well.
Finding out that your child has autism can be very overwhelming and frightening. Many families feel alone and unsure of what to do next and I feel that my blog is a valuable and honest resource to show others what has worked for us and what has not.
One of my favorite aspects of my YouTube vlogs is when I speak about what I’m grateful for having autism touch my life. Despite the challenges, there are also blessings and I am learning and growing as a person and a parent through this journey that I am sharing with my son.
I would love the chance to share our journey with more families and to have a larger platform with which to educate and inspire others. Please consider sharing our story so that more families can benefit from learning about the various programs we are using to help Devon and know that they are not alone.
The Autism Speaks Canada blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks Canada’s beliefs or point of view.