Autism and the world of "what ifs"

Jennifer Mandell


One of the worst feelings as a parent of a child with autism is not knowing if you are doing enough for your child and constantly second guessing yourself if you should be doing something different then what you are.

I have 5 sons and my youngest -- my 3 year old -- has autism. We had started early intervention at the age of 18 months along with ABA. We also took him for additional feeding and speech therapy too. We started looking for schools for Sam when he turned 2. Everyone told us we were crazy for starting to look a year ahead of time. The way I looked at it was we needed to be well informed what schooling was out there and I didn’t want to settle for what our Board of Ed was going to offer. To make a long story short when he turned 3 they did try to keep him in district. We fought them and they agreed to send him out.

We had three top schools we wanted Sam to go to. The first two we really wanted him in, but the directors told us they weren’t going to have any openings for some time, possibly years, but they would add his name to the list of thousands of other kids. I asked how they go about bringing in a new student, and was told they start with whichever class room needs a child – so they would pick an age and go to that set of files and start the interview process. What a terrible feeling to be at a school that you love, knowing they can help your child but then they tell you “Hey too bad the list has thousands of kids, and it’s like winning the lottery to get him in here, but thanks for coming to our Open House.” Keep calling, they say, and I do but still no openings.

The third school we go to and we love it there but more importantly Sam loves it there. I have gone and observed many times there and he is making progress and he is doing well…But as a parent I am kept up every night with “what ifs”….what if he got into one of the other schools – would it be better for him?? What if his school now isn’t doing enough speech or OT for him?? What if we did move him to another school but he regresses instead?? What if he should be getting more therapy then what he is after school??? What if what we are doing is too much for him?? What if he never eats?? What if he never talks?? What if something happens to me – who will care for him?? What if…..Then I open my eyes and it is the morning – about 5:30 am usually and I hear Sam in his bed making his noises which to many just sound like whines but to me it means “Hey Mommy I am awake – come get me.”

We go out onto the deck and blow bubbles until about 6:30. He kisses and hugs me; he is very affectionate. I think how special he is and I thank god for him. He brings us so much happiness. There are no “what ifs” in the morning, just he and I enjoying our time together.

I promise him all of the time that Mommy and Daddy will do the best for him -- always -- and I plan on sticking to that promise. I will never give up on him.

To share your personal stories of how autism has affected your life, your family's struggles and triumphs, email them to info@autismsupportnetwork.com to have them shared here


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