As our LOTUS tribe continues to grow with inspirational beings, we couldn't be more honored to share our newest member's amazing spirit! Cheryl's stand point on gratitude for friends, family and professionals sheds a light that is sure to open your view on how support makes all the difference.
On my journey as a special needs mom I have learned the importance of true family and friends who will help, not just socialize with me - those who know the value of lending a hand so that our family can go on a Saturday outing, dine in public, or even watch one child while we focus on the other. I have learned that no one is more willing to help than those who have already stood where I stand now and have gained the knowledge that I will acquire on my journey. Today I am passing on some of this knowledge to you and I was inspired to start at the beginning.
I am the mom of two boys with autism. My oldest is extremely smart, most people wouldn’t even be able to tell he has an autism diagnosis, and therefore have very high (sometimes unrealistic) expectations for him. Even his pediatrician didn’t think it was autism when I started to ask for an evaluation at age 2. It wasn’t until he turned 4 that another doctor at our practice suggested we see a developmental pediatrician. As a teacher and a mom I thought I was doing the right thing by talking to my general practitioner, but as it turns out we needed a specialist. Once I learned that, many doors opened for us. I found out that in NJ there is something called Project Child Find - fill out the form and your school’s Child Study Team will meet with you within 10 days to begin the process of testing your child for special education. Project Child Find helped my oldest qualify for special education preschool at age 4 and he was officially given a diagnosis by a developmental pediatrician at age 5.
Picture above: (Center) Cheryl Imbesi - Wife, Mother, Teacher and advocate for special needs families.
My youngest is also extremely smart, but his autism is obvious because he is limited verbally, so people’s expectations are much lower. At age 6 he often communicates or behaves like a typical 2 year old, except he can count to 100 by 1s and 10s, knows all of his letters and what sounds they make! He can even ask me for the potty, and when I open the baby gate he makes a bee line for the charging station to grab his tablet - tricking mom every time!! When he was 1 I was given the most valuable advice. Reach out to NJ Early Intervention and request that they test him - if he doesn’t need assistance, you’ve wasted an afternoon and gained peace of mind, but if he does need assistance you will have helped him as early as possible. He needed the help and we began with therapies at 18 months old and he was diagnosed by the developmental pediatrician by age 2.
The 3 big things I wish I knew sooner:
NJ Early Intervention - testing is free and it only costs an afternoon to gain the peace of mind that your child is developing properly
A developmental pediatrician is needed if you suspect a delay in your child.
Project Child Find will result in your school’s Special Needs team testing your child to see if they need something different than a regular classroom provides.
Programs vary by states, but there should be similar resources and a good pediatrician should be able to point you in the right direction.
If you know someone with a special needs child, offer to spend time at their house - it’s probably hard for them to travel - or perhaps offer to go with them and their child out into the community for a day of errands or a day of fun. Extra hands are always useful! All parents need support but some need it even more!