Living with Autism: "Losing My Little Boy"
A Fierce Determination continued...
Nicole felt her next move would make all the difference: She took Ryan back
to their family pediatrician for a diagnosis. The doctor was shocked to see the
once-vivacious boy she'd known sitting in the corner, staring at his fingers.
She listened as a shaken Nicole rehashed all that had happened with Ryan. The
doctor hugged Nicole, and handed her a diagnosis of autism.
That gave Nicole more confidence when meeting with the developmental
pediatrician about a week after, in late September. The doctor agreed that Ryan
had autism, and in addition to the therapies they were learning from the NEIS
coach, the doctor approved a larger range of services, including a speech
therapist, occupational therapist, and nutritionist.
Since that diagnosis, the scope of Nicole's daily to-do's has become
mind-boggling. The biggest nonnegotiables on her schedule board -- which is
prominently posted over her desk -- are practicing the therapies she's learned.
About five times a day, Nicole "brushes" Ryan: She strokes his back,
hands, arms, legs, and feet with a plastic-bristled brush to help him adjust to
sensations, including touch, which can overwhelm him (sensory issues are common
among children with autism). For the same reason, she does "heavy work"
with Ryan three times a day; she might, for instance, have him pick up a
weighted ball. And she gives him deep-pressure joint compression massages (she
presses on combinations of joints, such as ankle and knee, to release the
calming brain chemical serotonin). Nicole wishes she had more time to explore
treatment options. No matter how much she does, Nicole is certain she's not
"With everything that's going on with Ryan, I have trouble balancing
attention between my kids," says Nicole. "For example, I may walk away
from doing homework with my daughters when Ryan needs something. Then I hear,
'Why are you always going to Ryan?' It makes me wonder what else I'm messing
Looking at her schedule board, she does point out bright spots: Sunday
evenings, after the kids are asleep, she enjoys quiet time with Tim. There's
also an upcoming lunch with her girlfriends. And then there are the
Monday-morning playdates with a friend from church and her son. "It's been
healing when people like Sue show up at my door to offer support," she
says. "She and I walk and take the boys to the park. It's the one day I
feel like a normal mother again."
Look for the next installment of Living With Autism in the May issue of
Originally published on January 10, 2008
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