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Early Intervention saved my son (and me)

Before my son turned 2 years old, I knew he needed help. His speech was not clear, even for a toddler. He had poor social skills. Due to having severe acid reflux (resulting in surgery), my boy had an aversion to food, mostly relying on milk for survival.

His gait was unsteady despite beginning to walk at 12 months old. He would constantly bump into other people and objects. He had a hard time going up and down stairs, jumping, and sitting in chairs.

My son was extremely sensitive to his environment. If there were too many people around, or sounds were too loud—he would scream, try to run away, cover his ears and/or flap his hands. Things like bath time were pure torture for my boy.

Life was hard not only for my son but for the rest of the family. We couldn't go out in public without a meltdown occurring. People stared at my boy. Some individuals gave disapproving looks to my husband and me. Life seemed to be filled with tears and frustration.

Then, right before my son's second birthday, I had him assessed for Early Intervention and he qualified for ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), speech and occupational (OT) therapies.

Six hours of weekly therapy consumed my son's life but in a good way. He quickly bonded with his therapists and looked forward to his sessions. The therapies were not always easy for my boy. However, the therapists' encouragement, enthusiasm and caring ways prompted him to try his hardest to achieve the goals that were designed for him.

Within a couple of months, I noticed an all-around improvement with my son. Within six months, he graduated from the ABA and Speech Early Intervention programs and occupational therapy was reduced from two hours a week to one hour a week.

A year later, at the age of three, my son is a completely different kid. He speaks more clearly. He still needs speech therapy to help with articulation. However, he is now easier to understand which makes him less frustrated and happier overall.

My boy now wants to be around others. He looks forward to play dates and school. Although interactions are awkward at times, he is making an effort to have relationships with others. Whether walking, jumping, sitting or going up and down stairs, his movements are smooth. He is slowly willing to try different foods. Food, instead of milk, is providing his nutrition.

He still receives occupational therapy due to being sensitive to his environment. Thankfully, his reactions to his surroundings aren't as negative as they once were. If my son feels overwhelmed by his environment, he is using his learned positive coping skills to self-soothe. For example, he will say "too loud" which is my cue to take him to a quiet area to calm down. He rarely runs away, screams or flaps his arms anymore.

Bath time is now fun for us. He loves the feel of the warm water on his body and wants to play with his toys. Now, instead of seeing tears and frustration, I hear his laughter which brings me absolute tears of joy.

ABA, Speech and Occupational Early Intervention therapies not only benefited my son but me as well. No one ever envisions having a child with special needs. The journey of raising a child with special needs is hard. Many parenting books don't explain what to do with a child with special needs. The road can feel lonely because not everyone understands what your child, and you, as the parent, are going through.

My son's therapists have been my listening ear when I've been frustrated or sad. They have given me the tools to help my son succeed in his everyday life. They have rejoiced with me when my son achieves a goal and makes progress. They are my superheroes and I dedicate this article to them.

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