When my twins were 27 months old, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with two MCITP (Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers) staff members—a parent educator and a speech and language pathologist. It was an afternoon when all three of my children were upstairs taking a nap. We were discussing where we should start since their testing from a week or two ago indicated that they were both significantly delayed with specific issues consistent with autism. Neither were talking. They were beligerent, and in very destructive ways. They wouldn't make eye contact. They couldn't follow a point. And they had no desire to learn any of these skills.
We were meeting to discuss a plan of action. They described my options to me and we agreed on what we would do. It was apparent reasonably quickly that things were NOT working. This first option was not the best fit for Ballerina. She was, as she was described, "too rigid" (a trait associated with autism). It was believed that she needed a rigid system—Applied Behavior Analysis—to help reach her. ABA, simply put, breaks every task down to its smallest components. It requires children to sit and perform discrete tasks (trials) and they are rewarded for their compliance.An organization called Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children was contracted through MCITP and provided services for six months, until Ballerina turned 3, at which point she began a special education preschool.
When we started, we were told our children were "severely autistic." They were non-verbal. They had no interest in communication. They were incapable of sitting still for any longer than 30 seconds (we timed them once). We worried about elopement (running off). This was three years ago.
Kindergarten is coming up. On Aug. 27, when Montgomery County Public Schools open for the 2012-2013 school year, they will be in a kindergarten classroom. And we now know that they will be in the same school, but in two different programs. They will both be in an academic program, working towards a high school diploma. Ballerina will be in a general education classroom. Music Man will be in a special education classroom and will be expected to complete the kindergarten curriculum before the end of the school year. And we know they can both do this.
But the only reason that they are where they are is because of early intervention. Between MCITP staff working with them (and me) and their respective preschools working with them since they turned 3, and their own personal drive and development, we have seen these results.
When we started our journey in "The Autism World," as parents we desperately wanted to do everything in our power to give our twins the chance at a "normal life." Well, who can say what that really means? But thanks to early intervention, we have helped to give our children the best chance at success. As a parent, what could be more important?