Unlike many children with the typical onset of signs, our daughter Michele presented a trickier set of behaviors that made her diagnosis of autism a long, tedious ordeal. Already a mother of four when she arrived, I noticed early on that things were just not right. Her first set of vaccinations were a nightmare. She cried for 3 days nonstop. By the time we finally decided to take her back to the pediatrician, it suddenly stopped. At 2 – 3 months, there were subtle things like no eye contact, no facial expressions. She cried a lot but we really couldn’t find a good reason all the time and sometimes she would just look around, bewildered, and smile at nothing at all. By 6 months she was unable to sit still unassisted, still no eye contact, no facial expressions, and no desire to be held or comforted. Almost a complete disconnect. We started every therapy that was available before age 1 and had every test known to man done. After a process of elimination, she was diagnosed autistic right before her 2nd birthday.
It was at that age that she started to eliminate foods from her diet one by one until she would only drink milk from a bottle. Mind you, she never ate solid foods, only stage 2 baby foods. We were finally able to get her on PediaSure, which I am certain now, most surely saved her from starvation. She is 8 yrs old now and still will only drink PediaSure, and still, only from a bottle. It has been constant battle to try and get her to drink from anything else. She refuses to drink when we try and take it away. It’s very frustrating. We have yet to find a therapist or a technique to solve this. She is nonverbal, with maybe 3 to 5 words that are recognizable. She understands simple commands but we are at a loss to know whether she understands most things we say to her. We are a military family and have excellent resources at our disposal. She attends a post special education class, has speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapies daily. There is some progress, but it is very slow and she often regresses.
There are seven children in the family. My youngest four from my current marriage all have different diagnoses. My 10-yr-old daughter Emily diagnosed with OCD and anxiety disorder; Johnathan, 4, with autism, impulsive behavior, and ADHD; Sara, 2, with developmental and speech delay. She has also been a head banger since about 6 months. My oldest three boys from a previous marriage are unaffected, physically anyway. While there’s no way to pinpoint the exact cause of all the disabilities our children suffer from, we kick around a couple of theories. I’m not completely sold on the vaccine culprit, but it’s not all together ruled out. There’s also the military theory. My husband has been continuously inoculated since 1989 with every chemical vaccine known to mankind. Preventative measures, they say, and though there is no proof positive, we suspect it may have adversely affected him and the children. Our life has been affected in so many different ways by autism, some good, a lot, not so good. “A thief in the night”, I once heard, referring to what autism is to a family. A dream that will never be. This is our life; this is how we live, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. My children are my heart, the loves of my life. No time to stop and think about it. If I did, the tears would never end.