My life took an unexpected turn when early October 2006, I received an urgent call to come and help my youngest son with the care of my then 6-month-old grandson, Logan. Through the help of family and friends, I was able to make the trans-Atlantic trip within a week. I soon found myself fully absorbed in taking care of him 24/7, and working through a myriad of legal, logistic, and financial issues.
From early on it was clear that my grandson was extremely active and had boundless energy. When a family member saw him bounce across the living room floor in a “stationary” ExerSaucer at age one, she commented that he reminded her of her now teenaged son at that age, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. I had never heard the term before, and brushed it off, as surely, Logan was just a typically active and healthy baby.
As my grandson grew, we started noticing some other behaviors that seemed a bit different from “normal.” He would excitedly hop up and down in front of the TV while flapping his hands, for example, and walk across the floor on his tiptoes. He was also very slow with starting to speak. On the other hand, he proved to be very bright. He could identify word-flashcards by pointing after being told a word only once.
When my grandson started attending a private preschool at two years of age for several mornings a week, I soon received reports that he was crying a lot, and not behaving as the other two-year old children in his group. They encouraged us to have him evaluated, which we did shortly before his third birthday.
We were relieved to hear that even though there were some developmental delays, he did not need or qualify for special services. However, problems in preschool persisted. After another incident of my grandson melting down while having to wait in line and pushing another child, the director called and asked me to come in. I was met by her and several board members, and informed that he was expelled because of the incident. They handed me a tuition refund check, and that was it. I left the meeting in tears—upset and sad—and determined to get to the root of these problems.
We moved to another State shortly afterwards. While enrolling my grandson for Head Start, I requested a class with an experienced teacher, who would be patient and understanding of him. I passed on his previous evaluation to the school counselor, and explained what had happened in the private preschool. This wonderful woman could not have been more sympathetic and assured me they were going to do their very best for Logan—and so they did!
Not long after this, the counselor contacted me and told me that under their State’s laws my grandson did qualify for services. She also suggested retesting right away, as she suspected he had autism. He started daily special classes along with weekly speech and occupational therapy immediately, while remaining in his mainstream classroom with his wonderful and patient teacher for the rest of the time.
Even though there was no specific diagnosis yet, this is when my autism journey began in earnest. I read everything I could find on the subject, subscribed to blogs and websites, and worked closely with my grandson’s special education teachers and therapists to find solutions to every-day problematic behaviors. We created Logan’s “tool box” together, which included fidget toys, First-Then charts, visual schedules, key ring rules, short social stories, and more. Through working with him intensively at home and at school, we soon saw marked improvements.
Before the school year ended, when my grandson was just a little over four years old, we received the test results. My grandson had high-functioning autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and borderline ADHD. While this came as no surprise, it was now official.
I never dreamed that my initial three-month visit to the U.S. to lend a hand with my grandson’s care would lead to what I now call my autism journey.—A journey fraught with battles and victories, trials and triumphs. It awakened a passion in me I didn’t know existed. It daily moves me to try new things and dares me to do something different and out-of-the-box to keep making progress. The books I wrote for my grandson were one of these things.
I hope that the resources on my website, and the Autism Is…? series of children’s books, specifically written for my grandson, but published for all children with autism, can be an encouragement and helpful to parents, grandparents, and caregivers of autistic children. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you’d like to share your story. I would love to hear from you.
You can contact me at ywideman(at)gmail.com