I had a really unfortunate experience this morning on the phone with one of my son’s old speech therapists. My son Connor, now 5 1/2 years old, was once diagnosed with severe non-verbal “autism” and no longer carries a diagnosis. I had to call his old facility to clarify a few things about billing, etc., and the conversation just disappointed me and made me angry. I was talking on the phone, when Connor realized who it was that I was talking to and wanted to talk. So I gave him the phone, and they had a nice chat for about five minutes. I got back on the phone, and she said, “Wow, Maria, I cannot believe how well he’s speaking.” I sat there for a second, calmed myself and said, “Yes, he no longer carries a diagnosis. He’s indistinguishable from his peers.” The whole time I am thinking, Really? Really? Why should she be so amazed? When I first brought my son to that facility, I made it clear that I was not planning to be bringing him there for long, because I was treating the underlying medical issues, and it wouldn’t be needed. They knew my mentality in regards to today’s “autism,” and I tried to educate them. The therapist I selected for my son was wonderful and genuinely believed what I was doing was working and asked me questions about treatments. The others I know made fun of me behind my back (the one I spoke to today was one of them) and most likely called me crazy: “You can’t recover a child from autism.” (Yes. You. Can). I always pushed on and really questioned and tested my son’s therapist to ensure he was getting what he needed.
This is what I need you all to realize: Not all therapists are created equal. While there are some truly, truly amazing therapists out there (thank you!), there are some that truly lack. If you feel your therapist does not see your child’s potential, or is condescending about your choices of alternative treatment, you have the right to fire him or her and find a better one. I meet with parents all the time, and a common thing I hear is “Well, his therapist said . . . [fill in the blank].” Parents put their faith in therapists — they just want their kids back — but this does not warrant them passing judgment on children’s potential. They need to be loving, supportive and motivated. It bothers me immensely that our children really feed off the vibe of others (despite what people tell you). If someone has this mentality about them, it transfers to the child because they get it. My son has often told me things I had said to him while he was trapped in his body from illness. These children hear you. I encourage everyone to read the book Ido in Autismland. It’s enlightening.
And, quite honestly, therapists should be taking notes from Thinking Moms because, despite what people say, today’s “autism” is medical: Heal the body; the brain will follow. I guess it may be unnerving to them sometimes, though. When my son was getting released from his IEP, the therapist said, “Don’t get too good at what you do. I need my job security.” This was her response to me after I told her that I was in the process of saving my own son. I have been able to help other families get their children better, too. I am not the only one, either, who has been told this.
In closing, let me clarify this is not generalized therapist bashing. I know many who put 150 percent into the children they treat, and those children thrive. This is meant to be more of an awakening, more of a public service announcement that you do have the right to question, the right to empower yourself to get your children the appropriate respect and treatment they deserve. My son wouldn’t be where he is today if not for my no-BS Spartan ways. The best advice a high-functioning adult on the spectrum gave me early on was, “Do not let anyone determine your child’s capability.” It’s time to trust our innate ability as mothers to know what is best for our children.
Don’t give up the fight. Only forward from here!