By Siovhan Lawrence
In our family, April 2 is not just World Autism Awareness Day. It’s also the two-year anniversary of our son Bradley’s autism diagnosis. So far, we’ve learned many things on this journey. One lesson, in particular, we learned very early is setting realistic goals for Bradley while celebrating every single milestone – both big and small.
After a battery of tests with four-and five-letter acronyms and countless labs, we finally received an autism diagnosis for Bradley. The next step: Setting goals for our newly diagnosed son. We were asked, “What are your specific goals for Bradley in the next six months?” How do you answer that? We knew our son was delayed in every aspect and missed milestones. He was developing new interfering behaviors and was also showing regression. We answered with things we thought would be achievable. Roll a ball back and forth during play. Push a toy car around. Say the words “hi”, “bye”, “mommy”, “daddy” and “sissy.” We said we wanted him to wave, smile, respond to his name when called. Also added to our list were eye contact and an expanded food repertoire. WOW! Looking back now, we realize what a tall order that was.
In the following months we learned more about autism and the challenges Bradley would face. Needless to say, during his next evaluation Bradley had not met any of our goals. Subsequently, we became less specific about our goals and focused more on understanding all of the intricate parts of each of those tasks.
After coming to Little Star Center (nearly 18 months after Bradley’s diagnosis), Brian, one of Bradley’s therapists, casually mentioned he was working on something with our son. He told us it would be a surprise. At Christmastime, we were asked to come to LSC and receive our “gift.” With all of the progress, setbacks, therapy and undeniable hard work, we had no idea what to expect. We walked into LSC and in came Bradley, riding around the corner on a tricycle. ALL BY HIMSELF! There he was pedaling, smiling and focusing. He lost a grip on the pedal, but he regained his footing. It was AMAZING! The best Christmas present ever!
As we celebrate Bradley’s progress over the last two years, we have learned to see the development of new skills and goals being met under a whole new light. Each and every moment of dedication from both the LSC staff and Bradley is monumental. Whether he is flashing one of his giant, infectious smiles or communicating one of his needs, we appreciate each moment and it fills our hearts with hope and pride.
Siovhan Lawrence is a mother of two. Her son, Bradley is a learner at Little Star Center.