ONE WORD: XAVIER
He is my passion and my calling for ALL children at risk for special needs services to receive the proper treatment, services, and education they deserve. He is our youngest son born at 24 wks, 3 days. He was given a 15% chance of survival and if he survived, we were told he would be blind and severely mentally disabled.
Xavier is neither blind nor mentally disabled but he has a diagnosis of mild Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and Sensory Integration Dysfunction. This was the beginning of a long and tedious journey of research, doctor appointments, therapy sessions, and schools; however, the oasis of information we gleaned was immeasurable. Xavier was 6 months old when we began to see signs of a physical abnormality with his crawling and walking so we sought out help and received an early diagnosis and physical therapy treatment.
By age 2, Xavier began displaying signs of echolalia and tantrums when transitioning from one activity to the other at which point he was diagnosed with Autism. He, like many children with Autism, was also diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction because of his adverse reactions to certain types of light, sound, touch, and textures. He began receiving Occupational, Speech and Sensory therapies along with Physical therapy in private clinics. When he reached school age, he was able to receive those same therapies through our local school county, however, it was a struggle to obtain, maintain, and monitor his services. Every school year was a challenge with new teachers, IEP goals, and timely services, but we remained vigilant and committed for the sake of our child’s future. Xavier graduated high school with a GPA of 90.11, is a student at Clayton State University and he has plans to live independently and have a wife and children.
The one constant throughout these years is our resolve to never give up throughout this process. It became imperative that Xavier continued to receive ongoing and appropriate services for his needs whether at home, preschool, elementary, middle or high school. Through this process, we have learned how to be an effective advocate for our child from his treatments to his educational plans. We realize how critical it is for parents to recognize the signs of a disorder and disability, seek help immediately in order to begin early intervention services, and most importantly, prepare for the battle. This has and still is an amazing journey and I consider myself blessed to gain the experience, resources, knowledge and courage to help my child.
It is my deepest desire to help other parents avoid some of the pitfalls and obstacles I endured as they embark on this very tedious yet rewarding journey and I appeal to all parents to ask yourself, are you prepared to take care of your child for the rest of YOUR life? Let’s help them become independent and successful adults by believing in them and in ourselves.