by Jacki Edry
I will never forget the day that my child received his first diagnosis of PDD. It happened when he was about 2 ½ years old, and I was standing in the middle a crowded hallway of a clinic in Israel with the doctor. She simply looked at me and stated “Your child has PDD. We’re going on vacation for the next month, so give us a call at the end of the summer to begin treatment”. Simple as that. And then she walked away.
I stood there for a few minutes, completely shocked. Not so much about the diagnosis, because I had been working with autistic children for many years. However, the casual way in which she notified me of this totally devastating piece of information was quite surprising, to say the least. I felt like my entire world just came crashing down on me. At the same time, I knew that I needed to form an immediate plan of action. And not after the summer vacation, that was for sure….
This was the first of many similar experiences, where “professionals” demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity, or announced a prognosis that was, to put it mildly, less than positive. Ten years have passed since that day, years which have been full of learning, challenges, and wonder. I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about autism, and how believing in the power of the human soul to heal and grow can produce incredible results. Our family has seen many miracles over the years, and with G-d’s help, and a lot of work, we will continue to see many more. And, believe it or not, we are certain that our son has been the most incredible gift to our family, and we have all grown in ways that are incomprehensible while trying to help him to overcome his difficulties.
I would like to share with you a few tips that I have found to be extremely helpful over the years. Perhaps some of them might seem a bit unusual, or you might think that I am somewhat unrealistic, but I they have worked for us. So please bear with me if you think I’ve gone a bit overboard….
Tip 1- Believe in yourself and your child
No matter what the professionals say to you, you must believe in yourself and your child. Trusting your instincts, and believing in your child’s ability to improve are the two basic requirements for survival and improvement. Without these two initial criteria, you will have a very hard time helping your child.
I was very fortunate throughout the years, because I intrinsically trusted myself and the path I followed for treatment with my son. In addition, both my husband and I firmly believed that he was going to overcome his disability, and that he will achieve happiness and success in life. To date I am blessed with this belief.
Doctors and professionals have seen many instances of children on the spectrum, and there are definitely trends or commonly seen prognoses for children with ASD’s. However, as you know, to every rule there is an exception- so if one of those professionals gives you a bleak outcome for the future, I suggest that you don’t believe him. It will only do you good, you can be certain that your child will feel that you believe in him. I remember that when my son was 4 ½ years old, we took him to a prominent neurologist in N.Y. After five minutes he concluded that yes, our child was autistic, and added that since he hadn’t started speaking to date, he wouldn’t speak at all. He suggested, as a non-religious man, that perhaps we should start praying, and that we return in another three months for a visit.
Needless to say, the return visit never happened. What did happen was something very different indeed. We walked out of the office and my husband said very firmly that the only one with a problem was the doctor, and that his bleak prognosis was irrelevant. Our son was going to be just fine. The interesting thing was that about six o’clock the very next morning, as we were still drowsily opening our eyes, we suddenly hear our son walking around the apartment looking for me, and calling out “mommy…mommy”. So much for never speaking…
The point is that you never know what your child will eventually achieve in life, and no professional is qualified to decide what his or her future will be. So why not choose to believe that the future will bring good things, it’s far more pleasant than thinking the opposite…