Writer’s Name: Charlotte Marshall Templeman
Title: My Summer Blessing
I remember sitting patiently in the exam room of the emergency department of Temple University Hospital with my daughter Summer. At the time she was two and a half and I found myself making frequent visits to the emergency room every summer. Something was biting her and it would cause allergic reactions in her that resulted in blisters. I remember she sat playing with her shoe, smiling like she always did. She was in her own world. I had no idea that this visit to the emergency room would change my life forever. As some time passed, the doctor came in to examine Summer. Her diagnosis stated that she was bitten by an insect and an antibiotic would cure the problem.
Although I could not remember my daughter being in a situation where she was bitten, I asked more questions and was satisfied with the findings. As the doctor finished speaking to me she walked over to Summer and began to interact with her. Summer continued to play with her shoe, not engaging in any conversation the doctor wanted to have. After several attempts of trying to get her attention, the doctor turned to me with an awkward smile. “How old is Summer?” I answered “two and a half” as I stood by daughter watching her. “Um, does she respond to you when you call her name?”
“Yes, she does sometimes,” I answered wondering where this line of questioning was coming from. “Does she um… has she ever been tested for developmental delays?” No, I responded. My curiosity was getting the best of me because I had no clue as to why she was asking these questions. “Well as you can see I’ve called her name several times and she has not looked at me or responded. A child her age we try not to diagnose with certain developmental delays, but have you ever heard of Autism?” I responded I had but I was not very familiar with it. The doctor went on to tell me why she believed I should have Summer screened and what her concerns were. I listened but I really do not know if I was hearing it. Autism? My daughter? Why did she believe that? Was it because Summer did not answer to her name when called? In my eyes she was more interested in playing with her blue shoe rather than engaging with the doctor. I left the emergency room and needless to say the conversation with the doctor was life changing and eye opening. Summer was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three. It has been a little over five years since my encounter with the doctor who forever changed the lives of my daughter, me and my family.
The word Autism was first used in 1911 by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. He used the term to describe one group of symptoms of schizophrenia. For many years the link between autism and schizophrenia remained in the minds of many doctors and researchers. By the 1960’s medical professionals began to have a separate understanding of autism in children. When diagnosing someone with autism there are three categories a person can fall under. They including: Autistic Disorder, Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS) and Asperger’s Syndrome. My daughter was diagnosed with PDDNOS which means that children have symptoms that do not exactly fit those of autistic disorder. This means that the child’s symptoms may not be severe enough to be considered autistic disorder.
One symptom which is common in all types of autism is the inability to easily communicate and interact with others. Although some may have limited communication, others may not have any at all. In conjunction to communication skills being limited, some have difficulty in holding a conversation or interpreting body language. Other symptoms that are linked to autism are unusual behaviors which can fall in the areas of interest in objects or reactions to sensations. When a child is diagnosed with Autism, treatments vary depending on the needs of the individual. However, treatments in general fall into three categories which are behavioral and communication therapy, medical and dietary therapy, and complementary therapy which for example could consist of music or art. It is extremely important if you notice your child is not developing appropriately to ask questions. Early intervention is always crucial.
Having a child diagnosed with autism can be extremely overwhelming. In an instant the dreams and aspirations you had for your child could be gone forever. It is a difficult thing to grasp. Mixed emotions begin to surface and at times you question why this is happening to you. Often times you may even question God. However, those feelings are normal and with support from family, friends and other parents experiencing what you are, the questions will become less and the love and appreciation for your child will become more. I am blessed to say that Summer has progressed very well due to early intervention and the knowledge her teachers and therapist have. When I began this unknown journey I had no clue where I was going. It was by trial and error that I finally found the school that began her on the successful road she walks today, The Center for Autism. She and I learned valuable lessons that we also utilize at home to keep her focused and forever learning. In September she will be entering the third grade just as eager and energetic as she has in the previous years. At times our road can get a little bumpy but with the help of family and friends we keep moving together.
Blessings as we know can come in all shapes and forms. Some of us are blessed with good health, wealth, great jobs, homes and all the luxuries of life. I on the other hand was blessed with a special needs child. She is not only special because of her developmental delay but she is special because of what she brings to the lives of me and everyone she touches. I had the honor of attending Summer’s talent show at the completion of her camp program. There were children who could not walk or talk. Some suffered from Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism. For most of us life would be gloomy but for those children life was grand. They wore smiles on their faces, they sang and clapped if they could and they generally were happy. Summer teaches me every day that life is special because you are blessed to breathe and see another day. I thank God for her and her smile, kisses, songs and love. I named her Summer because even when the sun does not shine she still warms my heart. She is and will always be my blessing.
Information for this article was found on www.webmd.com.
If you live in the Philadelphia area and have a child with Autism, contact The Center for Autism. They service children from 3-5 years of age.
Other helpful articles on this topic can be found on www.autismspeaks.org