Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Little Cricket’s Delay: Getting the Perspective of a Mom of an Autistic Child

I called Young Minds today, the typical preschool I had chosen for my son once I realized that the original preschool I wanted to send him wasn’t going to work. I called with anxiety because I had to post pone his start date again. This whole process has been such a long road and I have had to modify not only my expectations but my idea of what is best for my son. Originally I selected Branches, a Reggio Emilia School that I adored, however while in toddler group at that school I realized that the school just wasn’t for us. The format was too open, the projects too self-directed. I loved it for me, an extravert, an artist, I loved the beauty and openness of it and I would have thrived as a child in a program like this. My son however was going to need more structure, more routine, more guidance than I had originally thought. So I went in search of a new school, and Young Minds was perfect. As a blended philosophy school it had some Reggio Emilia inspired things as well as the added structure I think my son needs. Hesitantly, because I still don’t really want to send my little boy to school, I set him up to start January 1.

And then we went for 2 of our 4 play dates with his class. He wouldn’t sit, he wouldn’t pay attention, he wouldn’t respond to his name and it was a mess. The teachers kept letting me know that it was normal, and that my son, who had never been in a school atmosphere, would get used to it. I was skeptical. I kept hoping, but it was so hard. On the second play date we left ten minutes early, me only barely making it to my car before I burst into tears.

I didn’t want my son in a ‘special’ preschool. I really wanted him in a typical preschool where he could be around children who could model appropriate behaviors and language.

And then I talked to the Developmental Pediatrician. She suggested that I send my Little Cricket to preschool with a Shadow, I had never heard of the term before. Basically a Shadow is a helper that would go with my son to school to help guide him to be engaged and productive at school. So I called Young Minds, told them I had to find a shadow and do interviews and that my son would start a month later on February 1.

And then after getting the Autism diagnosis and reflecting that my son couldn’t sit, pay attention or attend at all I called the school again today. I told them that my son got diagnosed with Autism. That he was going to need so much therapy and that I was trying to wrap my head around everything. That I did eventually want to send my Little Cricket to preschool, but that I wasn’t sure exactly when I was going to feel the time was right. I was worried the Director was going to be angry with me, instead she was wonderful. She was totally amazing. She offered to return the deposit. She offered any assistance that she could give ‘You just have to ask!’ she said. After a moment’s hesitation I asked. Were there any children with autism or developmental delays at their school who attend with a shadow? Did she know of any of the moms who might be willing to talk to me from a mom’s perspective? I was getting flooded with lots of specialist’s strong opinions of what I should do and lots of well-meaning friends and family with sympathy and love but no experience about this new world I was being throw into. I told her that I was lacking the piece I needed most. I needed to talk to someone going through what I was going through. Someone who had been there and done that and someone who could help me navigate what I was going through because they were also ‘there in the trenches’ with me. I was floundering, I told her, and I could really use the advice.

She said currently there were several children with special needs that attended their school but in particular one mom she thought would be wonderful for me to speak too. She said to send her an email and that she would forward that onto the moms in the group. An hour later I got an email back from the mom the director had mentioned introducing herself. We sent several emails back and forth and then later that evening we got on the phone and spoke for three and a half hours.


The director from Young Minds Preschool reached out to me and asked that I contact you. I have a 3-year-old son with Autism and he attends YMP in the red robins class with an aide.

I understand your son was just recently diagnosed. Although we all take it in differently, I can definitely understand what you are going through. I've been down this road for 2.5 years now. I do have lots of information and I am more than happy to listen and help you sort through how you are feeling. Just let me know what you need. I don't want to bombard you with info. I'm happy to answer anything you ask, nothing is too personal.

There is lots of hope for you and your family. I can't say that it is an easy road, but there is a road and it is very fulfilling. People on the spectrum are so beautiful, you will find a way to have a very deep relationship with your child, it may be a little different from other kids, but it is just as rich. I give a talk at UCLA on 1/22 at 10:30. It is free and you can meet other parents, also, depending on your child's age you may be able to qualify for a cutting edge intervention I have been lucky enough to be a part of there at the UCLA Semmel Institute.

Please feel free to reach out any time.

Big Hugs,
Awesome Fellow Mom Warrior

There are moments in life when things slow down, where I feel totally touched and cared for by someone that I have only just met. That call was life changing and I will remember the excitement I felt when I got off the phone. This woman was amazing. She shared her and her beautiful son’s story. She shared her journey with treatment, tests, partial hospitalization, her relationship with her husband, how he handled the diagnosis, the things that were working for her family, where she had been in her thought process to approaching Autism when her son was first diagnosised and where she was now 2.5 years later. She shared how she had to pour things back into herself and the steps she was taking to create programs that work for her son. She shared her shortcomings, her triumphs, her dreams for moving forward. She was honest, she was open, she was raw and she was a godsend. She was an excellent resource for information on so many different things and reassured me that although we both had to go (since it was well past midnight now) that she would help in any way she could.




I got off that call feeling better than I have since the diagnosis, and more importantly I felt like I wasn’t alone. It was going to be ok. I was going to be ok. My son was going to be ok. We were going to work something out that would allow us all to be our best selves. And the weight of the world didn’t feel so crushing.



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