To the Therapist Who Gave Us the Best Gift of All Time
Last year around this time, our lives had been thrown into complete chaos. At Lila’s one-year check-up, the discussion inevitably turned to some of her red flag behaviors: she wasn’t pointing, uninterested in playing with her daddy or me, not responding to her name, not looking when we tried to point at something, giving little eye contact, not interacting with other children at daycare…
After her initial developmental assessment, Lila started therapy with SoonerStart when she was 15 months old. At that point, she’d barely even acknowledge my husband and me. She was often in her own little world. It was scary at times, when we couldn’t get to her. We were terrified that we’d lost her, beyond overwhelmed, and our heads were spinning. What did this mean? What would Lila’s future look like? Would she ever live on her own? How in the world were we going to give her all the help she so desperately needed?
In October 2013, a woman named Janet entered our lives – and she would change everything. She’s a speech language pathologist. Through SoonerStart, she’s contracted to come out and see us once a week for an hour. During our sessions, she taught my husband and me how to get into Lila’s world. But that’s not all she did.
Janet and I have been in constant contact since then. I just counted, and over the past year we’ve exchanged over 350 e-mails. She successfully helped us navigate through the initial shock of how far behind Lila was developmentally. She saw us through the official diagnosis of autism and acted as a sort of family therapist. She’s our go-to person for information and advice on all things Lila and autism. Receiving one of her lengthy e-mails jam-packed with links and all sorts of useful information is my version of Christmas.
The change we’ve seen in our daughter is unbelievable. She wants to play with us and actually seeks out those interactions. She’s mimicking sounds, some actions and has started to say “go,” “yeah,” and “yay” in the correct context. She uses PECS cards to tell us what she wants to eat or drink. Little by little, we’re breaking down the barriers and finally starting to communicate with her.
Janet swears that (not unlike Mary Poppins), she’s giving us the tools we need to help Lila thrive and succeed – and that one day, we’ll not need her anymore. But we just cannot imagine our lives without her. She’s beyond selfless – she’ll say that all of Lila’s progress is because of Bill and me, that we’re the ones who put in the time to actually follow through with her suggestions. She’s an angel (I’m fully convinced), and she came into our lives for this important purpose. We’re forever grateful; she’s family now and always will be.
What better way to thank her than to make sure everyone knows what a kind, generous and amazing human being she is?
I mean, she helped give us our daughter back… and I cannot think of a more profound gift.
Read more from Melinda Brown on Dancing With Autism.
The Mighty is celebrating the moments we gave or received a gift that touched our lives in a special way. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post describing this moment for you. Include a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to [email protected].
Hint! Some gifts don’t come in packages.