What’s the Biggest Research Project You’ve Ever Done?

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I would have to say that the biggest research project I have worked on is learning to raise Andrew, my four-year-old son, who was diagnosed with autism more than a year ago.  Every day offers new challenges, since he literally can wake up as a different kid each morning.  Certainly, I would love to know how his demeanor and attitude will be, but it’s a bit of a guessing game until his morning routine begins to unfold.  In this journey, I have learned the importance of routine.  Kids on the autism spectrum thrive on routine and predictability.  If a daily routine, such as lunch or bath-time, is not in the order they expect, I can expect a meltdown, tantrum or just a child in a bad mood.  Diet is also important for a child on the spectrum.  My son has always has been a picky eater, preferring only junk food (french fries, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers), but once he was diagnosed, I read about the importance of going gluten free.  “Boy, this is going to a nightmare,” I thought.  Well, to my surprise, the transition was not bad.  Finding healthy, gluten free foods that he was willing to eat was not as difficult as I anticipated.  The only hardship with the diet has been the cost.  Gluten free foods are totally expensive.  Ultimately, though, it has been a great experience; I have seen a positive change in his mood overall, and he seems to sleep much better.

During all my research on Autism, I have seen many different opinions and points of view on the subject, and it’s been a challenge to form my own confident opinions.  As a mother, I frequently feel desperate and want an answer to how this could happen… how was it that my once seemingly normal little boy was robbed from me?  At least I felt that way in the beginning, and sometimes still do during hard times.  There are clinical protocols, vitamins therapies, etc., you name it and we tried.  I was praying that one of these things would bring the little boy I once knew back to me, but much of it was a waste of money.  After many tears and frustrations, I eventually came to accept and love that he is still my Andrew, just now with new twerks, giggles and smiles.  I think this journey also shows the genuine, unconditional strength that we as parents with kids on the spectrum will go through for our children.  I would walk to the ends of the earth for my son’s happiness, well-being and safety.

Lastly, I can say that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been an immense help for my son.  ABA is a form of therapy that trains autistic kids to improve their verbal and non-verbal communication, and reduces defiant and repetitive behaviors, which ultimately makes the child’s and their family’s lives much easier.  Being a parent of a child on the spectrum has been a mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting challenge.  We may never fully understand the cause and physiology of autism, but I feel that this has been a continuous learning experience that will continue as he grows older.

 

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