Sam is 9 years old and is my tall string bean of a boy. He loves to play on the computer, read books, play wii, and watch Baby Einstein and Yo Gabba Gabba.
Sam was diagnosed with autism on the severe side of the spectrum when he was 18 months old. He immediately began receiving in-home therapy with both occupational and speech therapists as well as a special education teacher through Maryland's Infants and Toddlers program. At age 3 he began attending preschool 5 days a week for 2 1/2 hours through Special Education and their autism classroom at Campfield Early Learning Center.
Sam's diagnosis did not come as a surprise to his dad or I. We had watched Sam struggle with meeting his milestones since his birth in January of 2003. As a newborn and infant Sam had an under-active suck reflex and an over-active gag reflex which made feeding him very challenging. He did not nap at all prior to 6 months and would be awake for 12 or more hours at a time and then sleep sporadically at night. Sam began sitting up on his own at 6 months, crawling at 10 months and did not walk until 21 months. Needless to say we were expecting the diagnosis when we received it. In a way it was a relief to know the truth instead of constantly second guessing ourselves or being bombarded with the unhelpful advice of others who insisted he was just willful and disobedient.
Sam has made strides in the years since his original diagnosis. In the beginning I questioned if he would ever develop meaningful verbal communication. He now has over 100 words (in English) and reads on a 4th grade level. He has taught himself to speak and understand many languages, including: Spanish, French, Hebrew, and his newest love is learning Japanese where he astonished us all by memorizing the Katakana and Hiragana characters by both sight and sound.
He will forever be my sweet first born little boy who broke me in as a new Mommy and taught me just how much love a heart can hold.
Noah is 6 years old. He is my bottle rocket of a boy and is always keeping me on my toes as he darts this way and that. Noah loves Dora the Explorer and Little Einsteins and absolutely adores coloring and using his drawing paper.
Noah was a typically developing infant and was amazingly easy in all the ways that Sam left us feeling ragged. He slept through the night at 6 weeks of age, ate like a champ, and would nap twice a day for 2 hours at a stretch. The best part he went to bed around 6:30 pm and slept until 6:30 am until he was almost 3.
When Noah turned 2 I noticed a subtle but definite shift in his demeanor. I will never forget sitting in the kitchen watching him look out the window while holding his hands up in front of his face with the fingers fanned out. I called his name. He didn't answer. I called his name again. He didn't even look at me. I called his name a third time and he mumbled something to himself and kept fanning his fingers in front of his eyes. That was when I knew he had autism too. Noah's diagnosis (also on the severe side of the spectrum) hit me much harder than Sam's had. To put it bluntly I thought he was going to be normal. I thought he would be the yin to the yang that was Sam. 2 brothers but on opposite ends of the spectrum of life and abilities. I gave myself a few days to get mad, really seething mad at myself, at God, and at genetics. Then, I picked myself up by the proverbial boot-straps, asked God for forgiveness for doubting His plan, and I got my butt in gear. Noah saw all the same therapists, went to the same programs, and is now enrolled at the same school with the same teacher Sam had when he was Noah's age.
Noah has made strides as well since beginning early intervention. He now has 30+ words that he uses alone or in 2 word combinations (such as "want drink" or "want balloon"). He shows amazing fine motor skills and could write his letters very early at the age of 2. The funniest thing about Noah is that almost all of his communication is for his own ears and consists of "scripts" from his favorite TV shows. If I take something away from Noah that is dangerous he will yell, "Swiper, NO SWIPING!" or if he can't find something he will say, "Who do we ask for help when we don't know where to go? THE MAP!". You can hear him reciting these comforting scripts to himself throughout the day. His memory is simply nothing less than amazing.
Somehow I think that is what God had in mind all along.