Hi. My name is Tatianna Dickens and I started this blog because my son Zack recovered from autism. Having lived through this ordeal first-hand, I want to share my strategies and advice as well as hope and support to other families dealing with the struggles of autism.
Zack was diagnosed officially at the age of 3 (non-verbal, estimated IQ of 50, most skills in the 12-15 month range), but we suspected the dreaded “a” word when he was 2 years, 8 months old. It was at this time that we began our three long years of non-stop intense early intervention program. In other words…when he was awake, he was receiving therapy. By the grace of God, and with enormous help from family and friends, Zack has made so much progress; he no longer meets the criteria for autism.
Is he still a bit quirky? Yes. But he talks, has friends, plays on a soccer team, enjoys life and has an estimated IQ of 110 (verbal) to 120 (non-verbal). He is fully included in a 2nd grade classroom, receiving no special education services.
Was it difficult? Yes, beyond the scope of my imagination. Was it expensive? Yes. Very. Did this experience change our lives like no other? Yes. But do we have our precious little boy back? Yes! I get goose bumps just thinking about it, even now, years later. Was he worth it? A thousand times, yes!
There is hope for children with autism! Don’t give up!
Woo Hoo! I’m so excited to have clips of Zack’s progress on digital format now. Next step: learn how to post here or on Face Book, or both. Since it was so heart-wrenching, discouraging, and painful to watch him stim and tantrum…and since we were immediately redirecting every stim and addressing every tantrum…we don’t have a lot of footage of the bad stuff. In retrospect, I wish we had captured more. It was just too difficult when we were living through it. But, we do have him babbling “ma ma” at 9 mo, imitating brother at 14 months, and screaming at the camcorder and signing at 3 years, 1 month,… and some great therapy sessions too. I’m so looking forward to sharing these clips with everyone! Note to local friends – if you know how to do the technical stuff, please let me know. Thanks. Tatianna
Until Thursday, May 6th from 11a-1p. It is open to the public so please come by the Corbett Center Bookstore if you live in or near Las Cruces, NM. I also have a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in the Mesilla Valley Mall on Sat, May 15th from 2-4p. I’m willing to travel to other locations so that other families can be encouraged by my message of hope. Let me know if your community is interested. Tatianna
On April 1st, 2010, my book, Accept No Autism, was officially released. It shares our journey, our strategies, our struggles, and our success stories. As it is still in the review process with major bookstores, you can get more information through Jebaire Publishing. Visit www.jebairepublishing.com to read an excerpt and to place orders. Parents…please feel free to contact me for free advice and encouragement…any time. I want to help. Tatianna
I talked to a University film professor this week who wants to interview local families of autism for a documentary. Since all of our footage of Zack was taken with an ancient camcorder with miniature VHS tapes seen with the help of an adapter, he is going to help me convert my stuff to digital format. Yippee! Not that we have much footage, mind you…he did carry on so every time we tried. But we do have typical development at 1 yr and at 18 mo…interacting, responding to name, following and playing with older brother, Jacob. Then….we have him screaming at the camcorder, signing, and not responding to name at 3yrs, 1mo…many therapy sessions after that. I think we have enough to really show his progress over the years. I’m so very excited, so eager to share this with other families in search of hope. Remember, if you want to learn more, check out www.jebairepublishing.com.
This afternoon Zack is off at a birthday party. We were able to just drop him off at the big wood park where the party is taking place. We didn’t always have it so easy. Far from it. I remember going to parties filled with tantrums and screaming and hand flapping. Not too many, mind you. The invitations were quite rare back then. Even though those times were tough, they would have been infinitely worse if we hadn’t talked with Zack beforehand about what to expect…the rules for musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, the noise, the chaos, the sugar…It didn’t help much at the beginning of our journey, when Zack’s receptive language was too delayed for real comprehension; but as he got older it helped a lot. We still use social stories from time to time, with all of our children. What do you say when someone gives you a gift you already have? “Thank you, I love it.”…not, “I already have one of these.” Yikes!
Remember, if you want to save three dollars on Accept No Autism, visit www.jebairepublishing.com before it is too late. :0)
I have had several people tell me that they can’t wait to buy my book in April. I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that books orders can be placed at this time from http://www.jebairepublishing.com. There is a limited-time, $3 discount available so please take advantage while the getting is good. One note: once you click the “more info” button, please scroll down the next page so that you can see all the relevant information. We are attempting to fix the spacing on this page so that it is more user-friendly, but have run into technical difficulties. Please feel free to share with anyone with an interest or need. And, please feel free to contact me with questions.
I just wanted to let you know that my autism book is now available for presale at a discount price. For more information, please visit www.jebairepublishing.com.
May the Lord bless you in all your autism efforts! And, as always, if you want to contact me for free mentoring, I’m more than happy to help. Tatianna
One of my friends recently suggested that I write about finding good help. I’m not going to talk about agency people, because I have a feeling there are many differences depending on the state, population stats, etc. But I do have some ideas about finding good college students to help carry the therapy load. I recommend posting flyers at your local university or community college, especially in the following areas of study: education, special education, early childhood development, psychology, social work, and speech, occupational, and physical therapy departments. Of course, one of our best college students was enrolled in the college of agriculture, so there is no express need to limit your options. These autism-related areas of study are likely to offer a higher response rate. I would give all interested applicants ample time to be trained by you or professionals on your team. Have them observe what you do to make sure they feel they can handle it. Autism therapy is not for the faint of heart. Not everyone is up to the challenge. Also, have them read some material about autism in general, and your child’s case specifically…not only present levels…but programatic goals, objectives and strategies. The better prepared the college students are to perform the therapy, the less turn-over you’re likely to experience. And this will be better for everyone…the student, your household, and your child.
I asked my autism friends on facebook what they would like me to write about in my blog. Personal pronouns came up. Like many children with autism, Zack struggled greatly with mastering personal pronouns. He and she and his and hers weren’t so bad. The gender specificity was a little more obvious. But switching from I to you and mine and yours was so much trickier…because it changes depending on who is saying what. We practiced many hours upon hours, often with toys that “talked”. We set up many sentences…”Are you coming to my house? Are you going to your house. That is my toy. Your toy.” We also did many silly questions…”Is the dolly yours, Zack? Is the frog yours, Mom?” Answering with smiles and funny voices, we’d practice, “No, the frog is mine, not yours.” etc, etc. We also set up sentences where he only had to use the right personal pronoun at the end. “The girl is wearing a dress. The dress is ____.” Zack would have to say, “hers”. We set up scenario after scenario after scenario and probably spent a year working on this. I know it’s mind-numbing, but press on. This was one of the early intervention goals I definitely asked our college students and respite provider to work on with Zack so I wouldn’t have to do all of these drills. It certainly didn’t come overnight…but it did come eventually. Keep at it. I can’t begin to tell you how many things we worked on that I thought Zack would never master. They were too numerous to count, I’m sure. But he did finally get it so we could move on to other things. And move on we did.
We had a family member have a close call in the ICU and everything came to a stand still. There’s nothing quite like a really scary moment to help you remember your blessings…especially your loved-ones. If I could share some non-autism related advice…appreciate the special people in your life, the love you share. Hold tight to your precious memories and make sure to take the time to tell those you love how much you care….’cause you never know what’s coming around the corner. Many blessings. Tatianna