When I was 6 weeks pregnant, I learned that I was pregnant with twins. This was, to put it mildly, a real shock, as this was a spontaneous pregnancy and there are NO (known) twins in my family. But, my husband and I were more excited than words can express and after a while, Big Brother too was excited about having a baby brother AND sister to play with.
They were born just over 6 months later. Two perfect little cherubs who practically fit in the palms of our hands. And, like all new parents, we saw their future…..TOGETHER.
Things don’t always turn out the way you dream about when you see your children for the first time. Their personalities assert themselves and their individual and unique interests emerge. But I had this image of sending them to kindergarten at age 5.5 to sit in the same classroom and learning from the same teacher. I imagined them sitting around the kitchen table with their older brother (who would be in 2nd grade), doing homework together as a team.
But when they were 26 months old, my world turned upside down. They were both diagnosed with Autism. Our lives became about the alphabet soup that all Special Needs families know all too well and others often have no idea. We became an IFSP / IEP family. We were faced with an ASD, PDD-NOS, ADHD, POTS diagnosis. We were receiving regular reports from ABA Therapists, SLPs, OT and PT Therapists and regular reports about SIBs. And, despite hoping that they would be able to enter a kindergarten program together, when they were placed in separate preschools when they turned 3 to address their individualized needs, I felt like that dream was over.
They are now 5.5. On August 27, they began Kindergarten, and Big Brother began second grade. But something happened. In our placement meetings towards the end of the 2011-12 school year, we discovered that they had been placed in the SAME SCHOOL. Music Man is in a special education classroom, following a general education curriculum with exposure to his general education peers. Ballerina has been placed in a general education classroom. They are in adjoining classrooms. Both of them continue to be supported by an IEP.
To say this is HUGE is an understatement. These are two children who, just 3 years ago, were barely verbal, 95% non-compliant (for any and all things) and a serious danger to themselves (they were “wanderers”, they both engaged in SIBs, etc) and really showed no interest in the world around them. They were both diagnosed with “Severe Autism” which is as far to the severe end to the spectrum as it goes.
So, I dropped them off at school on Monday, dressed the way you would imagine kindergarteners to be dressed on their first day of school. I dropped my Ballerina off with her class outside and then brought Music Man inside to his classroom. And I said my good-byes and left them to enjoy the day while I went home and cried that my babies are growing up and reveled in all of the success that this means.
Nearly 42 months ago, my world crashed down upon me as I was forced to consider the struggle my children will face as they grow. I had to consider that they would never be able to live independently and what that would mean, not only to Dad and myself, but to their brother as well. Now, I am watching my children do what everyone else’s children does every day…..go to school to learn “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic”. They will learn all of the crucial life skills that their peers will learn. They will have the opportunity to go to college and study those subjects that awaken their soul. They will be just like you and me…..only different.
IFSP = Individual Family Service Plan
IEP = Individualized Education Program
ASD = Autism Spectrum Disorder
PDD-NOS = Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
POTS = Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome
ABA = Applied Behavior Analysis
SLP = Speech and Language Pathologist
OT = Occupational Therapy
PT = Physical Therapy
SIB = Self Injurious Behavior
About the author:
My name is Ilene and I’m a happily married stay-at-home-mom to 3 wonderful children. My eldest is a typically developing 7 year old. I also have a set of 5 year old girl/boy twins, both diagnosed with Classic Autism. My daughter has also been diagnosed with ADHD and POTS. Life is not what I imagined it would be at this stage, but it’s still my life, and it’s good. We have good days and we have bad days, just like everyone else. I started blogging (http://www.myfamilysexperiencewithautism.blogspot.com) to cope with things not progressing the ways that I wanted them to go. Sometimes I vent about problems. Sometimes I share in a glorious moment. Sometimes I try to educate others. It really depends on what I feel like saying when I sit down at the computer to “blog”. But I do promise that everything I write is honest and heartfelt, even though I may contradict myself from time to time as I learn new things. I hope to share with others what we go through. And I hope you enjoy reading our stories.