Monday, September 16, 2013

Matters of the Heart: Autism, an Impromptu Celebration and a Winner!

First, congrats to Becca Ann, comment #159 who won the giveaway!  I am so thrilled for you Becca and will be in touch with you asap! Thank you to everyone for your impressive participation!
I started this post months ago, but always abandon it because i get so overwhelmed with emotion. Our sweet boy Zion was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism back in February. However, there were signs before then. He was diagnosed with a speech delay at around 20months and he started speech therapy at the age of two. At two and a half years old, he was examined by a psychologist to determine if he was autistic or not, but no diagnosis was made because he excelled in so many of the categories that they use as measuring tools.
When he turned 3, the symptoms became more pronounced and he was reevaluated soon after. Although I knew the diagnosis was coming, I still hollered my eyes out.  Why him?

he was a year old in this pic and the one on the left above
I was the crazy first time Mom who wore Baby Plus on her tummy every morning to work because she wanted to communicate with her baby. I was the crazy first time Mom who read everything about shots and their implications AND made sure to stagger all his shots. He never received them all at once. I was the crazy first time Mom who... I could go on and on. But, despite all my crazy efforts and sometimes obnoxious protective behaviors (I have to admit I was a bit like a momzilla), I do still have a child with autism.
We placed him in a preschool when I returned to work after having Ian. Things were going great because he had a great teacher(who actually has an adult daughter who was diagnosed with Aspergers as a child). Therefore, she knew exactly how to interact with Zion. He blossomed under her watch, but then she had a stroke and things went downhill. The others didn't care so much and let's just say we had a "falling out". He was home briefly. I even entertained the idea of homeschooling.  Thank goodness I was no longer teaching because  I am able to be the warrior and advocate that he deserves. At one of those ritual IEP meetings, his team timidly suggested that he be placed in a special needs classroom. I say timidly because I had made it very clear that I didn't think such a setting was for him or would promote and challenge his growth.  You see, Zion is a genius. No exaggeration. His brilliance astounds everyone. Nonetheless, we were assured that his teacher was the BEST and not all the students were autistic, but they all had IEPs. The hubby and I discussed it and decided to give it a shot. So.happy.we. did.

His new Teacher.

There was only a month left in the school year when Zion started his new school and met his new teacher. Before the end of the week, she seemed beside herself with how smart he was/is.  She voiced early on, that his knowledge surpassed what was being taught.  Fast forward to this school year. He went back to his same teacher in the Special Ed Pre-k classroom(he is still only 4 years old),  but it wouldn't be for long.
New Beginnings.

His teacher made the recommendations for Zion to be placed in a regular Ed Pre-k classroom and only 8 days after school started, it came to be. I had an IEP meeting last Friday where again Zion's brilliance was noted again and his above average scores. Again, I cried(the norm). But this was through my happy smiles.  I met his new teacher whose background is Special Ed and this was her first year teaching a Regular Ed class. Coincidence, I think not. Zion has a his angels watching over him. His special Ed classroom teacher was also not a coincidence. In fact, the "falling out" at the other school was a blessing in disguise.

Photo Sep 15, 5 36 14 PM

The Impromptu Celebration
On Sunday, we had an impromptu celebration to recognize this great accomplishment for Zion. I used his favorite things and items from my party stash. Dad drew his favorite character, Thomas on the chalkboard wall in the playroom. He ate cupcakes( a rare treat), but that's also a fave of his:-). We told him how proud we were of him.

Photo Sep 16, 12 22 19 PM
Photo Sep 15, 5 31 14 PM (1)
Photo Sep 16, 12 15 52 PM
Photo Sep 16, 12 19 20 PM
after too many cupcakes

Photo Sep 15, 5 10 48 PM (1)
his favorite character, Thomas, thanks to DadaSmile

Photo Sep 15, 7 02 45 PM (1)

Autism and Us.
Therapy sessions, IEP(individual educational plan) meetings are now apart of our lives and that is fine. Zion receives speech therapy and occupational therapy(for sensory issues). He has made immense progress and now we can't keep him quiet.  Many of his issues are socially related. For e.g., he will now initiate play with other children. He used to totally ignore them.  He has taught us so much and has given me a new and fresh perspective on the world. It hasn't been easy, but we have been blessed. He has the best people on his team. He is our genius who happens to have some quirks. Today was his first day in his new classroom and I can’t wait to get him from school to hear all about his day! I have so much to share with you all! It is liberating to tell you our story.  Blessings and a beautiful day to everyone! xx


  1. Congrats to your sweet boy! I love that you celebrated him, you're a great momma!

  2. My kiddo has done the same steps. He is now in a 2nd grade reg. classroom. He struggles here and there when to much is presented to him but we have faith he can handle it. So great reading your story.

  3. I am so happy you hit 'publish'. You will start getting a ton of comments letting you know you are not alone. My son has an IEP, not Autism, but definitely 'spectum-ish' behaviors. The point is this is the new normal. They teach us to love them exactly the way they are. And them grow and blossom. I am glad he is mainstreamed. He is lucky to have you and vice versa.

  4. The other day a senior gentleman inquired as to why I was walking so slow with Beaver, so I told him about his strokes, to which re replied "then he's blessedly walking". And in the same most sincere and appreciative tone that gentleman used, I say what a blessedly wonderful and fortunate falling out y'all had with the school. I love how tenderly you told this story and I can just feel the love you surround your family with.

  5. Hoorary for Zion and YOU ALL!!!!

    Stacey, it seems we have more in common than just our love for home design. My older son has(had) autism too - he is a diagnosed PDD-NOS (i know you know my linggo gal). And I will say to you what I say to all my patients families who is coping with this diagnosis - " Kids with autism learn, they may learn differently, but they do, you just have to find a way to get thru him" , and with that said, I can see you have.

    It's a lot of hard work, fighting for the correct type of IEP, placement, discussing plans with therapists, I know, I've been there. But you know your son best and your advocacy to his needs always is the best and should come first, so I'm glad you insisted on not putting him in a class which you think is not right for him but are willing to trying new things for him at the same time!

    I'm rooting for his progress as much as you are, so keep the fight going dear and continue to address issues as they come. Sometimes, you may find that what works for Zion at home, might be what his teacher needs too in school! Think about that and adapt for him.

    As for my son, I am glad and proud to say, that like your son, he too is genius. He is in 7th grade regular class now, doing advance math(used to even have his own shadow teacher for him to help him focus) and the top one too! He has 2-3 friends, not a lot( who needs many, just true friends right?), he's got sometimes weird sense of humor but always has something interesting to say in conversations. I learn form him everyday.

    So to you and your family Stacey, cheer up, continue loving your boy and hugging him everyday and learn with every moment of this journey with him and I'm sure in the end, it will be a happy future for him. Good luck! Big Hug to you dear.. and ZION!!!!

  6. My goodness, Stacey it's as if I wrote this story myself. My son was diagnosed with a developmental delay at age 3. He spent the next few years in speech therapy and had a psychological evaluation as well. We struggled through Pre-K and by the time he reached First grade it was apparent his was "different" from the children in his class. They suggested we medicate him, but I refused. We were blessed with an awesome teacher who taught him for 2 years. She understood Caleb and was so patient with him. Fast forward to present day and my son is doing very well in school. He has friends and his best friend live across the street. I cried when I found out he was in accelerated literature. I wrote all this to let you know you are not alone. Your son is not alone. I am so hopeful for Zion's progress. He has 2 loving parents that want the best for him.

  7. I am so blessed to have come home early from school today so I could sit here and properly read this through. I am so thrilled to know that you are happy with the teacher, and grateful that the teacher he now has is an expert in this area of education. Your son is in good hands, but his teachers are also in good hands as well, because I just KNOW that Zion's gifts will only fill his teachers with the joy of seeing a brilliant mind grow and CONTRIBUTE to the learning environment. There are "adjustments" to make, and you have already set them in motion. Now it's just a matter of time and perseverance on everyone's part to keep up with HIM! He will teach us ALL so much.

    You cried out, and HE heard you. God has blessed you and I am looking forward to hearing about the life lessons Zion will learn and demonstrate. Blessings to YOU my both look so gorgeous,and your husband's art....WOW!!!!!! Anita

  8. What a story! And what a perfect reason to celebrate. He is blessed to have you as his mom. My husband is a child neurologist so I know how hard this is for families....and always my little grain of sand for brain research as we still know so little about these disorders. I think this is the beginning of many wonderful accomplishments for your baby.

  9. Dearest Stacey, you are amazing, and so is that sweet little boy of yours. Congratulations, Zion!! xo.

  10. Congratulations Zion and cheers to mom and dad. You are great champions for your sweet one and I think you are lucky to have each other. Thanks for sharing this. This is an important story that I think people need to hear to know they aren't alone and that mainstreaming is a good thing! Stay strong mamma!

  11. This is an amazing post, Stacey. I am moved beyond words.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this as your own therapy and something from which so many others will find strength. No easy task to peel back the layers and expose what's really going on in our lives - I mean, we all know its cant be all about pretty interiors. So cheers to you my friend for daring to share and to celebrate the genius you very well have on your hands. Brace yourself for an awesome journey. This is only the beginning of some great things to come.

  13. Thanks for sharing Stacey, You are incredibly brave and so strong for him, which is what he needs. I'm glad to hear he is doing so well and I'm sure he will continue to. I am a special education teacher and have provided therapy for children on the spectrum for many years. It's incredible to see the progress young children can make. Congrats to Zion and love to your whole family. Stay strong and continue to foster his gifts and guide him through his areas that need improvement. He's so lucky to have such a great mom.

  14. Dear Stacey,I have a lot of respect for you and how you have been facing the new situation in life.
    I am moved and at the same time it is a blessing that your boy is having you!!! A ton of kisses from my heart!

  15. You are so awesome for sharing. I have a close friend, her son was recently diagnosed with autism I shared this with her in hopes that it helps her with her son. ♥

  16. I admire you so much Stacy for the attitude with which you are facing Zion's challenges. An autism diagnosis can be daunting and paralyzing....I know, my son was diagnosed almost 10 years ago. I went through some very difficult days before I was able to see his strengths rather than just his deficits, and really be the mom and advocate that he needs. Now I'm unstoppable - my son taught me how to be a much better, stronger, patient,caring and capable person (among other things), but it took me time. Go Zion! You're a little hero, you and your mom are going to do great things together. -Caitlin

  17. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. My son was diagnosed with a genetic syndrome (Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome) when he was nine days old, when he was born I knew something was different. I was not surprised by the diagnoses when it was given to us but it still stung. I understand your feelings. You and Zion are going to do amazing things!

  18. Dear Stacey,
    Thank you for sharing Zion's story with us. I know your post will touch and educate many readers. Please keep us posted on Zion's progress. I'm so proud of you and your little genius.

  19. You are closer to a lot of people now, and you did well in telling your story. I am in both your and Zion' s corner cheering!!

  20. Such a loving portrait of your son and his amazing accomplishments! I am glad you decided to share this.

  21. This is all so wonderful to hear! I have a friend whose little girl was diagnosed with Autisim last year and they have had a rocky road of it. I'm going to forward this along to her so she can be encouraged!

  22. Way to go, mama! You championed for your son and he is in the best environment possible, because of you! I think it is so wonderful that you had a celebration for him and his accomplishments. You are both wonderful parents. That is easy to see! :) He is going to flourish!

  23. Stacey, I read this on my phone the other day and haven't had the time to comment. I just want to give you a hug right now!

    You're such an inspiration to me as a mother, and I'm sure so many other people who come here feel the same way.

    I'm sorry to hear of your struggles because I know watching your baby go through something that you can't control has to be tough, but I'm elated to hear that Z is doing well. Thinking of you guys, and sending you love and light! :]

  24. i had absolutely no idea and so this was moving to read. you guys are such a brave family - i love how you stand up for him the way you do. love it. i'm so glad things are going well now...and hello genius! can't wait to see what his life has in store for him!
    p.s......that art by your husband is AMAZING. that is so awesome and so full of love

  25. Stacey, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you to share this story. I know that you and your husband create a loving and supportive environment. I know that you are doing everything you can and Zion seems to making great strides. Your little genius is only beginning to show the world his true awesomeness!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  26. I am sure it was very difficult to share Zion's story. It sounds like because of your steady advocacy he is doing GREAT! I am thrilled for you that he has made so much progress.

  27. Just came across your blog; I love design too. But what struck me was your speaking of your son with autism. Twenty-two years ago, my 2 year old was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and thus began our journey. Today, after much therapy (which continues) he is a polite and almost independent young man. I'm proud of how hard he has worked. We still have challenges with his anxiety and rigidity. Your story sounds so much like mine; and I wanted to commend you for being a strong advocate for your son. It will make a huge difference in his life. We've come a long way in the past 20 years in our understanding of autism, but there's a long way to go. Sounds like you're doing all the right things.
    Ann Ruggles


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