It is a dark and terrifying moment when a medical professional informs you your only child has Autism (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) at the young age of one. When you hear the words, “he will be low functioning and nonverbal,” it seems as the Earth stops revolving and rotating. I lived in that dark place for a few years and the questions that remained unanswered for what seemed like an eternity was, “What does nonverbal and low functioning mean? What does that look like?”
The next four years were full of tears, uncertainty, frustration, and lack of patience and understanding. However, I was determined to become an informed and educated mother. I was purposeful in my attempt to increase the quality of life for my son. I sought out ways to engage and communicate with my son effectively. I worked with occupational therapists to fully understand ASD and SPD. I also attended as many community sign language classes as possible.
With lots of intervention and commitment, I began seeing a significant improvement in my son’s daily routines, and personal/social skills. This led me to believe that I was on the right path. In my home, on a weekly basis, I started teaching my family and friends the signs I was learning. I strongly believe it takes a village to raise a healthy child. I was a tenacious mom, eager for my community to engage with my son. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there was “Hope” for my son even in his “Silence.”
The class attendance was so large we quickly out grew my living room, and shortly after we also outgrew a local church facility. An Orange County Commissioner offered a local community center where we held the class for approximately 4 years. At the community center we held sign language classes, support groups for parents, ‘hang out’ nights for Deaf teens, and many other activities. We impacted the lives of many families who also had their own communication barriers. We celebrated everyone’s success as they worked through their barriers. We were happy to learn that all our successes differed from one another.
Today my son is a thriving fourteen year old high school student. He is taking advanced, honors and gifted classes. He currently plays basketball on a competitive traveling team. In middle school he was on 4 of the school teams. He was on the soccer, volleyball, basketball, and track teams. He made the National Elementary Honor Society. He is also an active member at our church and participates regularly in community events.
Throughout this journey, our vision has been to strengthen family bonds by bridging the gap between communication barriers. We accomplish this by establishing community outreach programs that provide resources, education, and support. We create communication opportunities beyond the barriers of disabilities and language. We currently provide a yearly summer camp for Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing students and their siblings, free community conversational sign language classes, support groups, resources for families, and much more. I am an active partner with various agencies and programs, such as Orange County Health Department, Arnold Palmer’s Early Steps program, Hearing Me, God’s Hands Agency, and many others.
We are thankful for individuals, agencies and programs in our community that impacted our family many years ago. We couldn’t have made it this far without them. We are happy Silent Hope now joins the community as another resource for families.