My Autism Journey

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 then teenage 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 things 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 like 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 who informed me that he would be 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 afterward. While enrolling my grandson in Head Start there, I requested a class with an experienced teacher who would be patient and understanding with 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 everyday problematic behaviors. We created Logan’s “toolbox” 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 spectrum disorder (ASD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and borderline attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (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 help 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.

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2 thoughts on “My Autism Journey”

  1. Hello Ymkje!
    I worked with you many years ago when you were traveling through RDU with your grandson. I am so happy to hear of your workshops, and to have read your story here. My nephew has high-functioning Autism and is 25 years old, and doing really well. I hope the same for Logan. I am retiring from RDU in April 2022. I just want to say that I cried while reading about your journey, so closely it follows that of my nephew and my sister. I always say that God chose my sister to be Nicholas’ mom, because she is amazing, like you.
    Keep up the great work, and helping others through your books and workshops!
    Warmest regards, Patty Rossi

    1. Hi Patty,
      So nice to hear from you after so long. I am glad to hear your nephew is doing well. Logan turns 16 in April and is doing well in high school. He has been living with me again since August 2020 and has made a lot of progress. We are working towards mainstreaming him this coming month, starting with one class at a time. He (and I) are excited about that. I will never forget your kindness in helping us sail through Raleigh airport without a hitch. I mentioned that in my soon-coming book. Thank you again for everything!

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