Brayden was born in September of 2008. It was a fairly easy pregnancy. Labor and delivery, although long, went well. The doctor handed me a chubby cheek, blond hair, blue eyed, baby boy. I fell in love in an instant.
He developed normally. He hit all his milestones a little before or right on time. He smiled at one month, held his head up around four months, crawled around seven months, started walking around 10 months, and was saying a few words. Around 18 months I started getting concerned. He wasn’t using as many words as he should have been. I also noticed that he would walk on his tiptoes; bang his head into any and everything when he was upset or crying and sometimes when he was happy. And it didn’t seem to hurt him. He didn’t play with his toys like they should’ve been played with. He would spin the wheels on the cars, but not roll them on the floor, or he would line them up one by one in a row, usually by color or size. He didn’t always respond to his name when called out. He was content to play by himself, even when there were other kids around. He would chew the hem of all his shirts so much that the hemline was gone.
I mentioned all of this to the pediatrician at Brayden’s 18-month check-up. He seemed a little concerned too. He gave me a name and number to someone he thought could help me. That person turned out to be Vicki Miller with TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System.) I called and set up a time and date for her to come out and evaluate Brayden. She did and said he was eligible to receive services through them. She then set me up with Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. But also told me about the Birth to Three Program. At this point, I was overwhelmed with all this information. Not really knowing what to expect, they set me up a meeting with Pam Potocik. She came out to the house and watched Brayden. She asked me tons of questions and filled out forms on him. After she scored everything, she let me know that he met the requirements to attend the center.
He started going to the center once a week for 3 hours. The first couple of days were rough. He cried, I cried, I cried some more. But the ladies at the center were always there for me. They answered my questions (even the ones that were a little crazy). They loaned me books on disorders and printed things off the Internet for me to read.
Okay, move forward about six months. The new year had started, and Brayden was able to go to the center two times a week. Not only had I noticed a difference in him, but everyone else had as well. He was a completely different child. He no longer did the head-banging thing. They were able to show him how to focus on other things instead. By being in the center around other kids with similar problems, he was able to get use to kids. He was able to learn how to take turns, how to share, and
how to wait in line. They worked with him on his speech by showing him sign language, the PEC system (Picture Exchange Communication), and encouraging him to use his voice, as well as the other stuff. He knows close to 20 signs and the words that go with them and several three-word phrases.
In November of 2009, we had a meeting with a psychologist. After several meetings and evaluations, he told me that my chubby cheek, blond hair, blue-eyed little boy had autism. I had suspected it, but it still hurt hear the diagnosis. Nobody wants something to be wrong with their baby. But I embraced it, got books about it, and learned everything I could. The ladies at the center were great, and they were there for me, no matter the time of day.
Things at the center were going great. Brayden was improving by leaps and bounds. In September when he turned three he transitioned into the school system. Christie Bales, who was his home teacher, came with me to the initial evaluations at the school system. She was there to help me fill in the blanks when I didn’t know the answer or understand the questions. She was able to give them perspective on Brayden and how he was to where he is now. She was able to give them little tips on how to deal with him on his bad days. Also, Mrs. Christie hooked me up with a couple of support groups for parents of special needs kids that I attend regularly. Currently, he is in preschool at Carpenters Elementary. He is still improving and doing great, and I credit the Birth to Three for a lot of that. I just want to say how great it is that there’s a place as AMAZING as The Birth to Three. If it weren’t for the loving, caring staff, Brayden wouldn’t be doing as well as he is today. They put more heart and soul into their jobs than most people would ever do. They go out of their way to make the parents new to a diagnosis to feel comfortable with it. They are always there to lend an ear or a shoulder. No question is too stupid or crazy, they answer you anyway. It’s one big family. Once you go through the Birth to Three, they’re friends for life.