“Your son will receive physical, occupational and speech therapy as part of his early intervention plan.”
This was one of the first things my parents ever heard from a therapist. From as young an age as I could remember, I received some form of therapy. This was due to my earliest challenges with autism. Along with being nonverbal until I was 2.5 years old (I started speaking at age 3), I dealt with a speech delay, motor challenges, dysgraphia (a handwriting disorder), auditory processing disorder, severe sensory integration dysfunction, and expressive and receptive language disorder.
I still remember going to Hackensack Medical Hospital and playing with Play-Doh, to help strengthen my hands, and walking on balance beams to help my coordination. Those were my favorite things to do in therapy; I couldn’t list all the other activities would do because this article would be 10,000 words long by the time I was done.
If you were to ask me today, looking back, what the most difficult part of receiving therapy as someone on the autism spectrum was, I would tell you it was not seeing progress at the end of each day.
When I was younger, I didn’t feel like I saw any progress at all in my therapy. From the very beginning, I came in with the mindset that I wanted to succeed right away. Although the therapists wrote in their reports to my parents that I was making small improvements, all I saw initially was a struggle. This triggered emotional issues for me, as I was trying to communicate my basic needs to my loved ones.
There was not a lot of hope back then, from my perspective, but what my parents and therapists did for me is something for which I can never thank them enough for: believing in me. Their positive reinforcement and ability to see the bigger picture made me start to see it in myself. While the time it took to see the therapies’ effect on me was definitely my most difficult challenge, I can say today that it was all worth it. As the years went by, I had to go to less and less therapy sessions until the time I graduated from high school, by which time it had practically stopped.
For parents, the advice I give when I talk to parent groups and schools is to research, research, research! Find the therapy that works best for your child! My advice for kids out there with autism who are having difficulties with their therapies is to understand that it’s not a race, but a marathon. Think with the end in mind, and imagine the rewards you will receive by sticking with it. I know it may be challenging to see now, but one day it will all come full circle, like it has for me. Never stop striving!