Cooper has been at Fraser for 2 months. That is absolutely crazy to me. When we considered moving 3 hours away, with the main reason being for his care, I secretly thought it would never work. Not the us part but the school part. Traditional therapy has been a nightmare for Cooper. We started with having the school district in our home, then went to traditional speech and OT at the hospital and then tried ECFE and lastly speech at a specialty clinic for kids with language disorders. ALL FAILURES.
That sounds harsh…but it’s true. Cooper was not ready for traditional therapy and I believe it was actually detrimental for our family. I cried. Cooper cried. Cooper ran and threw. And I drank coffee and secretly wished it was whiskey.
But now, here we are. 2 months in. And Cooper is thriving.
There was a point in my life that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to write that sentence. He loves his school. When I pick him up he is excited to show me his teachers and his classroom. For the first month or so of school when I would pick him up he would want to put his coat and backpack on immediately and leave. Now, he runs around and shows me different things.
I thank God that I was wrong. (Side note, please God prove me wrong on all my negativity!)
I had Cooper’s monthly meeting last week with his psychologist. I am going to word vomit everything that we discussed. It was one of the best conversations I have ever had about Cooper. And not because it was all good news……because it wasn’t. But it was honest and educated and came from a great place.
I very rarely get on my soap box on this blog because I am not expert. And never will be. But let me say this to all the concerned or lost parents out there (which was me 6 months ago) FIND THE RIGHT PEOPLE. Trust me on this one because I wandered and stumbled lost on the autism journey for 3.5 years. And it almost broke me.
Find the experts. And make sure they care about you and love your child but ALSO that they are experts in your child’s disability. And will be honest with you. And tough with you when needed. And lastly be a shoulder to cry on when you need it. We had many people in Duluth that were wonderful people but they were not experts. And they did some damage that may never be healed. Being a teacher or a speech therapist or a playground monitor doesn’t make you an expert in autism. Hell, being a mom doesn’t make you an expert in autism. Find the right people friends. You will feel like a weight has been lifted.
Cooper has 2 licensed psychologists in his room and his own aide. I love all 3 of them. And they love Cooper. Another confession, one of my biggest fears about Cooper’s future is that people won’t take the time to fall in love with him. But again, I was wrong. Thank you sweet Jesus. His aide is smitten with him. And he is with her.
So here goes…And some of my questions may come off silly. But remember, I don’t know this stuff either. And no one has ever taken the time to help me.
- His teacher told me that Cooper makes amazing eye contact. She actually said it’s the best in his class and when she thinks about Cooper’s future eye contact is huge. I knew this already and it felt good to finally have someone confirm it. I remember being with pediatricians and hearing…’well, he doesn’t fit the autism diagnosis because of his eye contact (as he’s turning the light on and off) so it must be something else.’ She also said that he enjoys the company of adults way more than children. I asked her why. She said that children are unpredictable and Cooper likes a strong personality to tell him what to do. He doesn’t get what he craves from other children so he turns to adults. Also, children don’t make eye contact with other children consistently. This was super interesting to me.
- One of their main focuses with Cooper right now is turn taking. Cooper really struggles with waiting. Even more so than taking turns. I asked why that it is. She told me how when babies are born they are the center of their own universe. As babies get older they become aware of their surroundings and peers/friends/etc. I totally see this in Sawyer. Cooper hasn’t realized that yet. He is still the center of his own universe.
- She told me a story about how the 3 adults took Cooper in the hallway away from the other children to play a simple game. He sat on his aides lap and watched for the first minute or so. It was a very simple game where you put a ball in the mouth of a penguin and then pop the ball out of the mouth. When it’s your turn you get the pop the ball, go get it and bring it back. Cooper could not understand this. He wanted to get that damn ball and throw it. And did so over and over again. And each time he had to sit back down on his aides lap and watch for another turn. And by the end he understood what to do. This blew my mind. So simple right? Not for Cooper. And the fact that they took him alone and worked with him one-on-one. I actually teared up.
- They think speech therapy is a must. It’s time. He is ready. And I see this at home too. He is communicating better than ever. He will attempt to mimic. Basically to sum it up, he is willing to try. This is new.
- Silly question…I asked if Cooper thinks like you and I. He doesn’t talk so how does he think. She said that some autistic people think in pictures. For example if you said the word dog, they would start seeing a picture of every dog they have ever seen. Interesting.
- Another silly question…I asked if his brain will one day stop learning. Like will I one day say that Cooper has a 4th grade education or whatever. She game me a firm no. She said that the sky in the limit with Cooper. His brain will continue to develop. In my defense it is really hard to see improvements in a nonverbal child. You can’t measure anything. It’s tough.
- I asked them to work on Cooper’s self-care. We are going to focus on potty training, getting dressed and using a cup. (HUGE MOUNTAIN)
- I mentioned that Cooper is very spoiled. And she point-blank asked me why and if it’s because I see him as a baby? I laughed. I don’t see him as a baby at all. I just think his life is going to be hard and I want him to know how loved he is.
- Lastly, she said that Jamie and I are the keys to Cooper’s therapy and future. She rarely sees families that care as much as Cooper’s. Her words were, ‘you are the center of his universe and he is in love with you.’ That meant a lot. We had a brief discussion about special needs kids without a support system. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t imagine where Cooper would be if we didn’t care. It’s scary to think about.
Cooper is making huge improvements at home too. He pooped on the potty for one. That’s a story in itself! He mimicked Sawyer and I the other day. Another story that deserves its own post. What else….I have had 3 different people tell me in the last week that Cooper is like a different kid. He also rocked Thanksgiving.
I don’t know if it is his age or what but he is really maturing. This kiddo is going to be 4 next weekend. I remember I wrote a post a while back about being on the right side of age 4. Sigh. Time’s running out for that one. But the optimist in me has to believe this could be our year. This could be the year that Cooper says mom or Sawyer or milk. Anything really.