In 2010, we had a situation arise that hit close to home. We were contacted by a family friend letting us know that two boys from a family we knew had been taken into DCS custody in Florida due to their parents violating probation for drug related charges. And the other caveat was that their mom was pregnant and due in a couple of months. After careful thought and praying on it as a family, we made the decision to become foster parents in Indiana and work with Florida DCS to get the kids back to Indiana. One of the boys was 6 years old at the time and had autism and was nonverbal. It took an entire year before we were able to travel to Florida and pick the kids up to bring them back to Indiana. During that time, we made two visits to Florida, so that we could see the kids and they could see us to start building the foundation. After about 6 weeks of being incarcerated, their birth mom gave birth to a baby girl, she went to a different foster home than the boys. So she came home with us too, she was 3 weeks shy of turning one year old when we brought them home on August 4, 2011. Parental rights were terminated by Florida and our adoption was final January 11, 2012.
Since we knew the family, we knew a little about the kids. Chase was the 6 year old with autism. There had been neglect in those early formative years and Chase had not had any early interventions. He was also not potty trained. I started searching for information on autism and trying to educate myself a little more hoping that I would be able to help Chase with daily life struggles. I was determined that I was going to get him to talk, potty train him, and so many other things that neurotypical kids do. Well, was I in for a big surprise and let down. I quickly learned that my expectations were way off the mark. Yes, we got help working on communication with pictures (PECS), speech therapy and occupational therapy. For us, it was like being thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool and being told to learn to swim without any prior knowledge or opportunities to learn how to swim first. It is never a good time for a child to be given a diagnosis of autism, however, I just felt like if we had him from birth, we might have been able to provide him with some early interventions to help him get ahead and also for us to learn more and grow with him. Up until this point, I had very little knowledge of autism, what it meant, what it was, how to help your child with autism or all of the safeguards we would need to put into place.
As with anything in life, we go through seasons and they ebb and flow in and out of our lives. Having a child with autism is no different in that regard. They go through phases just like the rest of us. Just because he has autism, doesn't mean that what he did or liked at 6 is still the same things he does or likes today. A lot is still the same, however, each season comes with new challenges. He is almost 19 now and is a full grown man. Mental capacity wise, he is right about the same as a 24-36 month child. I have learned along the way how absolutely vital it is for you to advocate for your child regardless of their situation, but especially when there are any kinds of disabilities involved.
This will be the first of many posts in regard to autism as it has impacted our lives in so many ways and I have so much more to share. My desire for writing these blog posts will be to discuss autism further and what it has meant for our family, share any tips that might be helpful to others and tricks we have learned along the way. When I look back now on the beginning years of this journey up to present day, I remember there were many times that I didn't know if I was going to make it through it. Many times, I thought I would lose my mind, many times wondering if we had made the right decision but knowing we would have made the same decision over and over again if we had it to do all over again.