Elizabeth Dauner a special guest blogger discusses the joys and pain of raising a child with special needs.
Playing with your child brings so much joy to a parent’s life. But when you are the parent of a special needs child, sometimes those moments aren’t always there in the beginning.
I have a beautiful son named Oliver. He has autism spectrum disorder. When he was 2 he was diagnosed, and he didn’t play as a typical developing child would. He would spin wheels on cars or line up toys for extended periods of time. I would try to engage in him in pretend play with his toys and he wouldn’t make eye contact or respond to his name. It was so sad for me to witness. I felt I couldn’t connect with him. I would even get his older sister involved in playing and try to include him and most times, he would wander off. He preferred to be alone.
He started in a special program for toddlers with autism at the age of 2 and half. He received occupational and speech therapy at home also. We started with the basics. Since he was non verbal at the time we would model play with his sister with toys that provided sensory input. We would talk a lot during play and try to grab his attention to repeat words or to make eye contact. After about 6 months he started saying one-syllable words, making action sounds, and started making eye contact while playing! I was so thrilled! Something that comes natural for most children has to be broken down step by step and taught for my son.
Fast-forward to today and Oliver is almost 4 and a completely different kid. He talks non-stop and can pretend play with his favorite preferred toys. We still have sensory issues and he can have a hard time sometimes playing along side another child if a preferred toy is involved. He goes to occupation therapy twice a week were he gets a “sensory workout” with lots of toys, swings, bikes, brushes, and textures. It can make daily life very difficult and we can get a lot of stares out in public if Oliver has a “meltdown” over something like, the store being out of yellow cars in the toy isle. I just take it day by day and know that Oliver is being the best Oliver he can be. I am so proud of how far he has come and to be his mom.