This blog post was written by Nicole Watson, a mom to a son with autism. She's walking in the Autism Speaks Walk in Georgia, in partnership with The Marcus Center. Why do you walk for Autism Speaks? Share your story at email@example.com and we might feature it on our site!
I walk for Autism Speaks because I am the mother of a child on the autism spectrum.
I walk to raise awareness and to help other families find resources and support like we have found. Our son Austin is 2.5 years old, nonverbal, and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Austin was a happy baby and was advanced at meeting all his milestones during the first year, even learning to talk. We quickly noticed what we know now as his first sign of autism, he would never respond to his name. Then he began to show unusual behaviors such as toe walking, self harm, repetitive behaviors, and self-stimulation. His pediatrician assured us he was fine.
At around 16-18 months old, he not only stopped learning new words he lost all the words he once knew and became nonverbal. Finally, his pediatrician referred him for a hearing test which he failed due to fluid buildup. He had surgery to place tubes in both ears the day after his second birthday.
Shortly after Austin's pediatrician retired, we found him a new one. During his first appointment with her, she noticed some of the behaviors we had seen for a while. That’s when we first heard our son may have autism. We were referred to our local early intervention program called Babies Can’t Wait.
Finally people were starting to listen and our son was starting to get the help he needed. BCW referred him for Speech and Occupational Therapy. We went back for his 3 month check up after his initial appointment with the pediatrician, and that’s when everything changed for our family. She diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder and referred us to the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia who is partnered with Autism Speaks.
After months of paperwork and being on a waiting list, we had our pre-consult with Marcus and scheduled Austin’s autism evaluation. Marcus did a very detailed evaluation that lasted hours. Afterwards they took us in a room to discuss the results. Austin was officially diagnosed with Autism and the doctor went over many things with us, like his strengths and weaknesses. I remembered back to a point during our fight for a diagnosis, a person told me I shouldn’t have our son diagnosed because that was only putting a label on him. That person couldn’t have been more wrong!
Before we left Marcus we met with a care coordinator who gave us a folder full of resources to help us. She had already looked up multiple therapists, support groups, and learning workshops in our area.
Going to Marcus has been a blessing to our family! On the way out the door, I noticed a sign in the main lobby about the Autism Speaks walk in Atlanta on May 1st. I told my husband we have to make a team and join, we have to help bring awareness to other families about the way Marcus and Autism Speaks has helped us and how they can help them.
So here we are a week later, we are Team Wrecking Ball! Our team name was inspired by our son Austin, he is our intelligent and loving little wrecking ball!