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Personal Stories

Tracy Willing

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The following is an excerpt from Tracy's story:

"My Personal Autism Experience"

ZachBack in November 1993, our son Zachary was born. He weighed 9 lbs 1 oz. He was born with a hole in his left lung, and pneumonia. He went straight to NICU. 8 days later we were finally able to take him home. I had so many concerns for him...but he continued to do well. He breast fed. A couple times we had to take him to the hospital for wheezing, and blue lips, but we always came back with some new medicine, and new hope that things would be fine. The medicine never worked. He continued to wheeze. He actually stumped the doctors until he was 2 years old, when the wheezing disappeared.

At 18 months, we noticed that he was not talking like he had at 12 months.We were in the middle of moving to another state, so we decided that the move must be the problem. But 6 months later, still no talking, not even any verbal sounds at all. I just thought he needed a little speech therapy. I thought the other quirky things he did was just his "personality". When we were driving in the car, and suddenly hear Zach laughing for no reason, I passed it off as "his angels were talking to him" . When he would lay down underneath his crib, and play with the springs for hours if I let him, I just thought he was going to be an engineer when he grew up.

We finally had him evaluated for speech therapy through a local day care.The therapist sat me down, after observing Zach for an hour. She asked me questions about his history. His behaviors, his obsessions. Then she asked me if anyone had ever asked me about Zach's behaviors before. I told her some relatives had questioned me, asked me if he had ADD. Even a neighbor asked me if he had "downs syndrome or something". The therapists didn't say a word. She continued with the interview. When she was leaving she slipped an Autism Society Brochure in with her other paper work. I did not find it until later that evening. On the front of it, were her handwritten words, "call me if you need to".

That night , my world came crashing down. I believe there was 16 signs and symptoms of Autism in the brochure. It said if your child has at least 6 of these symptoms, he/she should be evaluated for Autism. I picked out 9. I was so devastated, all I could do was cry. "My child? Disabled? NO!" At the same time, I was relieved to find that my own suspicions about his behaviors, actually had a name. The next day, I called the therapist. She gave me all the info I needed to get Zach started with speech, OT, and other special services. She also told me about a book called Let Me Hear Your Voice written by Catherine Maurice. I ordered the book as soon as i could scrape together the money. I read it from front to back five times. That book gave me hope. It told me there was something that could be done about Zach's Autism. He COULD recover from it.

Zach is now 4 yrs old. I have been doing ABA with him on my own since he was 2 and a half. Zachary is slowly coming out of his autistic world. When I started, he was non-verbal, and basically a zombie. Now he is verbal, and interacts socially with family and others. He still has a long way to go. Last January, I fought the local school district, and won ABA for Zachary without going to due process. During this time, I was going through a separation. I didn't know how i was going to raise Zachary and his six year old brother, JJ, on my own. Then i met a wonderful man. I met him on a home schooling listserv. He has four adopted boys of his own, all with a disability of some kind. I moved in with him on April 26th 1998. I am now a Proud Texas Mama of six boys. :o)

Tracy Willing ©1998

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