My son, Tosh, is 9 years old and has nonverbal autism. Despite his diagnosis, he is thriving academically, communicates well, enjoys playing with friends, and he can go anywhere in the community, including traveling via plane, train or automobile.
I am also thriving! I run my own business, feel healthy and energetic, enjoy time with friends and feel positive about the future (even in 2020!)
It wasn't always this way. Just four years ago I was isolated, depressed and resentful. Tosh wasn't making any behavioral progress, and as he grew older and bigger, I was terrified about the future.
After a great start in autism early intervention preschool, Tosh made no academic progress in kindergarten. In fact, he was becoming the aggressive kid in the class.
One morning, after school drop off, I found myself mixing a screwdriver just so I could begin work and make it through the day. I realized this had become a daily habit. Something had to give.
I started with the most difficult problem: sleep. A lack of regular sleep had us both fried. I researched the problem online, made some changes to Tosh's diet and tried some natural health techniques. Within a few months, he began sleeping through the night.
Boy, was that a game changer! Once you get a good night's sleep every night, your outlook on everything changes for the better. Plus, he had fewer meltdowns and when they did come, they didn't last long.
I was ready for more.
Since those diet changes and natural health techniques worked so well for Tosh, I applied them to myself. Wow, what a difference!
By this time, we were both in a better mood and we were both having fewer meltdowns. I got him in to a charter school and tried mainstreaming first grade. It was too much for him overall, but he matured quite a bit during that fall semester. He showed he performed to his environment - when he mainstreamed, he took school more seriously and made actual attempts at school works. He made friends - real friends! - with neurotypical classmates.
Encouraged by the experience, I navigated the complicated maze of therapies, insurance coverage and waitlists, and tried ABA with the specific intent of modifying only behaviors that were preventing Tosh from learning grade level academics and, eventually, would prevent him from living his life as he wants.
We also doubled down on diet and tried new autism treatments.
It was starting to come together, and life was easier. Tosh was following directions and making behavioral and developmental progress. We were able to go to out in public and not feel on edge all the time. I was beginning to feel like something besides a parenting failure.
Unsatisfied with Tosh's second attempt at our local public school, halfway through second grade we tried homeschooling through the same charter school that let us try mainstreaming back in first grade.
This time, Tosh was ready to tackle serious academics and I had put together a supportive network of educators, school and private therapists and a community of autism moms, working together toward the shared goal of Tosh's academic success.
Just 18 months ago, he could barely write his name, he couldn't read, and his only math skills were counting.
Now, he's doing grade level work in all subjects, with and without support, as well as build foundational skills that will guarantee his continued academic success.
We are happy, healthy and have bright futures. And we want your family to have the same!
That's why I created The Autism Oasis.
As a former journalist, I have lots of experience researching useful information and passing it along to others. From surprising foods that disrupt sleep to your child's legal rights to AAC access, I love to share everything I learn with others.
I'm also very passionate about my son's right to live an active, fulfilling life just like everyone else. I strongly believe relatively few nonverbal people with autism have intellectual disabilities, and regardless of whether they do, the intelligence and potential of all nonverbal people with autism is drastically underestimated.
I am committed to improving life for my son and for "other guys like him who can't talk so people don't know how smart and cool they are," as I tell him.