Over the years, I have been spending a lot of time advocating for children with autism. I have been gone to every local lecture and every meeting offered by the state. One reason is that the transitions from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school had been excruciating for Damien. We had had a very rough years, and “neuro-typical” kids can be so cruel. I have taken a lot of time to educate the educators of my son. I have also been educating his principals and counselors since none of them have had any experience with children with autism before they met Damien. I know this is needed, because there is a long line of other children with autism right behind him. It seems that Damien is one of the oldest of children with autism in our area. There are a lot of things that I have learned, that I wish I would have known when he was younger. Unfortunately, we cannot go back. All I can do now is be the best advocate for him than any other.
It is amazing to see the progress of this young man, and how much he has grown. It blows me away when I think of the first conversations I had with specialists in the beginning. Damien was diagnosed at 16 months old as low-functioning autism. I was told that he would never talk, and he would most possibly need to be institutionalized. I would not allow them to tell me that my child would not progress. Therefore, I took him out of treatment at The Therapy Center, found a speech pathologist that does ABA training and teaches sign language, and quit working and school to help him progress. She worked with us three days a week, and had me work with Damien everyday. We taught Damien sign language first, and then worked on developing the muscles in his mouth. Within a year Damien signed fluently. Just six months later he began to speak in full sentences. I feel this is the reason that Damien currently excels in his American Sign Language class.
Damien had been in one type of therapy or another up until last year. It was not until 2004 that I was able to return to school. In 2004, his psychologist told me if I was waiting to get my life in order, until Damien’s life was in order, then I would wait forever. Though Damien has come a very long way and is now considered high-functioning, he will always have to have support. For a matter of fact, the psychologist and psychiatrist both say that he will be able to live on his own and be a productive member of society. However, they feel he will need a good support system to draw on when needed. I am glad that things have worked out the way that they have. I am the mother to two very bright boys that are the light of my life and the beauty in my world. I would never ask for more.