I know our story will evolve as time goes on, but this is a short summary of our journey so far…
In 2015 my husband and I were blessed with a little boy, Apollo. Shortly after Apollo was born he was diagnosed with Torticollis, or a ‘stiff neck’ – which caused his head to have a limited range of motion, favoring one side over the other, have feeding difficulties, etc. Since I had worked in healthcare, I was very fearful that the Torticollis would cause Plagiocephaly, or ‘flattening on the skull’ which could then require Apollo to wear a helmet. I had received information at the hospital about free early intervention screenings, so I sifted through my hospital discharge paperwork, pamphlets and flyers (that all new parents are said to have received) and found their number. It took Apollo some time to get evaluated by early intervention, but once he was, he was quickly approved for services and soon after we had a Physical Therapist come to our home once a week to work with Apollo. In time Apollo’s Torticollis resolved and his head rounded out normally, however, additional developmental delay concerns surfaced. It was during this time that Justin and I decided that I would put my career on hold to stay home with Apollo to insure that he got all the care and services that he needed.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees when you are overwhelmed and living in it. Looking back to our first days with Apollo, it was evident that he displayed many red flags for ASD since birth – sensitivity to touch, textures, sounds, etc. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until Apollo grew older that the red flags for ASD became glaringly apparent. Apollo was advancing in certain areas (completing puzzles at a shocking rate, sorting objects/colors, etc. much sooner than his peers) all while missing major milestones in other areas (not talking, not responding to his name when called, not making eye contact, unable to calm himself, etc.).
My husband, Justin and I have lived majority of our lives trusting our gut instincts, and while our intuition as parents told us for a long time that something wasn’t quite right we were often told by others that children develop at different rates, to just be patient and he will catch-up.
Over the years, we spent time every, single, day, working on all the tools and recommendations from the therapists and doctors. We bought all the recommended apps, tools and materials for Apollo; a weighted blanket, weighted compression vest, chewy toys, sensory brushes, special tooth brushes, sensory toys, visual schedules, special music programs, etc, and my husband even built Apollo a therapy swing to use at our home. The healthcare professionals applauded us for our dedication to his care, and assured us that we were doing everything we could to help him progress and advance, and while it was comforting to some extent to hear that we were doing a good job, it just did not seem good enough when we were still seeing our child struggle.
When Apollo turned 2 years 9 months, it was recommended that we have him evaluated by a Psychologist to see if he would qualify for ongoing services past age 3 – so we did. I remember exactly where I was when I got the call from the Psychologist. My husband and I were sitting down in a Mexican restaurant with our children and a close friend having lunch. We were getting ready to leave, when my phone rang. I recognized the number, so I quickly answered it. What happened next will forever be ingrained in my memory. As I answered the phone and recognized the voice on the other end, I found myself holding my breath – my mind racing. After a short introduction, the Psychologist said: “Mrs. Apple, Apollo has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. I paused, thanked her for calling, and hung-up the phone. It was almost like an out of body experience. In that moment everything that I had suspected for years had finally been confirmed – out loud. I was happy, sad, scared, devastated all at the same time. I was happy that we FINALLY had a name to what we had been seeing so that we could get him appropriate intervention services specific to ASD. At the same time, I was sad that Apollo would have a label that could cause people to treat him differently, because of the misconceptions and stereotypes that I had previously witnessed with autistic children. I was also very scared of the unknown – what would happen next.
What happens next? Stay tuned to follow our Journey!