Communication is Key
I’ve always been a strong believer in this, probably because my parents instilled this in me at a young age. If you think about it in order to succeed in your life you need to be able to let others know: how you feel, your ideas, your wants/needs, and emotions through communication. Unfortunately for Jessa and us we had to go through several obstacles to get to where we are now! It hasn’t been easy but WE are doing the best that we can. Our journey to be able to communicate has been a long one but so worth it!
Since Jessa was about 8-10 months she would babble a lot but for the most part was always very quiet and didn’t show much emotion. At first I thought maybe she just has a strong personality like her mom and hides her emotions like her dad. When she turned one there were still no words, she could care less to walk, and she still wasn’t responding to her name. Hmm, that’s definitely a red flag but we were told she’s just “slower” than others.
As time went on we got her ears checked because I thought, maybe she’s deaf? We took her to the local children’s hospital and as I sat there I remember thinking well if she is deaf that’s something we can learn and she’ll just pick up sign language fast. As I looked around I realized that our current situation wasn’t as difficult like other families around us. I then held Jessa tight and prayed for the best.
The hearing tests were passed with flying colors, she definitely could hear just fine. As I heard this great news I was quickly saddened because I realized then there’s something bigger that we’re going to have to overcome. I knew at that moment that we were dealing with something that I wasn’t ready to accept.
The months went by and we got an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis which led us to start with ECI (early childhood intervention). We started speech, occupational and social therapies. Jessa was about 2 1/2 when we finally started these services.
We had therapists come into our home at first, and that wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. Jessa immediately shut down and didn’t cooperate as I would’ve liked. This is when aggression started, at first I didn’t understand why but as years have gone by I totally get it now (well at least that’s what I keep telling myself).
At first we tried signing, and this is when I noticed she was having a really hard time accepting strangers in our home. I assumed she felt like these “strangers” are coming into MY territory and I’m going to protect my space. Jessa then started biting, and hitting the therapists as well causing some SIB (self injury behaviors). She also started eloping from tasks or demands she wasn’t wanting to do.
We then tried PECS (picture exchange communication system) but that lasted shortly since Jessa tore up the cards into pieces before even getting started on instructions. My heart was broken, how was she ever going to be able to communicate with us?
Within a couple of months we switched to a therapy center where she was one on one with a therapist for 30 – 45 minutes once a week. She did better with these sessions but with insurance only approving 2 days a week for 30 minutes I just felt it wasn’t enough. Then I had to remind myself she’s only a few months short of 3.
Jessa started pulling us to get our attention to help her with getting food out of the pantry or a drink out of the refrigerator. If you didn’t move on her command she let you know that she was upset and wasn’t happy about you not jumping up to her command. There’d be times when she would pull us and we wouldn’t move she would say, “This is heavy” I don’t know if I got up quickly after that because I was offended or at the fact that she could put those two things in context. Once she got us to her desired location she would then point in the general direction of what she needed/wanted.
We as parents were always playing a guessing game of what it could be that she requested. There were definitely a lot of upsets and emotional hard ridden days. I remember crying and thinking I’m never going to be able to understand what my daughter needs. One thing I do remember being grateful for was that Jessa still showed us love in her own way. She would always give us hugs, kisses and position us to where we were “forced” to hug her (definitely not forced but for sure only when Jessa said so.)
Luckily I have a lot of faith in Jessa and ourselves as parents that I knew we wouldn’t give up on finding a way to help Jessa communicate.
To be continued…