Thank you so much for taking this journey with me during Autism Awareness month. Thank you to the Myla, Elizabeth and Nakia for agreeing to share your experiences with my audience. Today I’m doing something a little different instead of the interview format of the previous posts I have given my sister Camisha the opportunity to share her story.
I have known Camisha for almost 30 years! I knew her before she became a mommy! I have witnessed her journey and have admired her from afar. Please read her story and be inspired, encouraged and educated.
My name is Camisha. I am a single mother of an adult son with Autism. Joshua, who is now 21 years old, had a long, but successful journey academically. He continues to require assistance in certain areas like socializing independently, following a more than two step verbal instruction, and expressive language. His diagnosis of PDD (Pervasive Developmental Delays) came at the age of 4. From about 10 months of age, I noticed some differences in the developmental stages in comparison to my older child who was 19 months older than Josh. I was advised by his pediatrician that “it was nothing to worry about” and “boys mature slower than girls”. So, I did nothing until Joshua was 2½ years old when, during a routine well child doctor visit and blood work, I was advised he had a high lead level in his blood. His first two years of his life, he frequently visited the doctor or emergency room. He had countless ear and throat infections, he was also fully vaccinated, as the health department recommended. But it wasn’t until that “routine” blood work showing high lead levels, did the delays of Joshua’s development (nonverbal, not walking, emotionally detached from family members) struck a concern with the doctor.
The Department of Health reached out to me and gave me information on how to fight lead without medication and some resources to help with the delays. He was placed in Early Intervention for a short while, because it is for children ages 0 to 3 years old. So, for about 7 months, he got very intense therapy: speech, physical, and occupational.
The services phased into school age where Josh was placed in Autistic support classrooms and went to school as a 12-month cycle, meaning there was no summer break. Only holidays he had off from school. He continued to get ABA Therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis) for after school hours. Joshua had a lot of tantrums because of his lack of communication. My house was a replica of his classrooms with picture cues all around and my daughter and I used sign language to help him communicate. Josh started talking (without prompting) at 6 years old.
The years went by with the same routine: school, therapy, and frequent classroom visits from me, and monthly progress meetings. As he got a little older, he changed schools and teachers. Change didn’t come well for Josh, but eventually he learned how to adapt. When his IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) was developed back in Kindergarten, not many goals changed because little progress was made with the current as he just needed more time. IEP meetings were held at the beginning and end of the school year.
When Joshua was 10 years old, we moved to a small town in Pennsylvania. It was a decision that I do not regret. The atmosphere is much calmer and they have wonderful accommodations for children and adults with disabilities and special needs. Joshua attended middle and high school and obtained his diploma at the age of 21. He maintained a high honor roll status for 6 years straight. He was enrolled in a job readiness and training program while in his Sophomore year and maintained great relationships with all of his job coaches, work site supervisors, counselors, and teachers.
Josh is currently active in a Special Needs Ministry Bible study group that meets weekly. He has interviewed and obtained employment at a local hotel restaurant. Joshua is a great help to me around the house, as well as care for my younger son, an 8 year old with ADHD and sensory issues while I’m at work.
Between the two of them, my daily routine consists of constant redirecting and having to have detailed instructions for almost everything. It’s never a dull moment. I have an older son that is so calm, cool, and collected. but I have to remember it’s a challenge for him to think outside the box, and he takes things literally. I do get frustrated at times because I forget, or my little one exhausts my patience because he is the EXACT opposite of Joshua. Either way, I’m all they have, so I don’t give up. I continue to teach and learn and help them grow. I pray for everything else.
My biggest dream is that Josh lives to enjoy life’s adventures and not be disappointed by the craziness of the world we live in today.