By the time our daughter, Katharine, was two years old, our family was in constant stress and all the attention was on her and solving what was wrong.
I was ready to try anything. It didn’t change the fact that I was scared. What if it was autism? Would she be ok? How do you parent a child with autism? Nothing that we were doing seemed to work. I still remember sitting on the stairs at work and crying as a friend just sat and listened.
We brought Katharine to Fraser a little before her third birthday, when we were at wits’ end as parents, in order to have her evaluated for autism, only after trying many other interventions. She cried a great deal and just seemed uncomfortable in her own skin. We tried everything to help her, but we could not find the cause of her distress. One day, my mother-in-law called and said she had just had lunch with an old friend. This friend had a son with autism, and it sounded just like our Katharine.
So we went to Fraser and met the staff. They were all so nice and so understanding. I felt crazy, but they assured me that this is highly stressful for everyone, especially when you don’t know what is wrong or how to fix it. We went through all the testing, and they recommended that we try occupational therapy for sensory integration training, and that we do home visits with Fraser staff, in order to create solutions for many of the challenges we experienced at home, such as getting her to eat a wider variety of foods, getting her to bed calmly, and dealing with the almost constant meltdowns we were experiencing. Once we dealt with many of Katharine’s sensory integration challenges, she began to seem like a different child.
We still had many challenges, such as difficult transitions, social skill building, and getting along with her sister. Fraser helped us through all of these challenges. Every time we came to a new stage in Katharine’s life and the new challenges that came with that stage, we would turn to Fraser. I think we have actually graduated from services at least three times, but they have provided assistance every time we return with a new need.
When Katharine was little, I never could have imagined how successful she would be or how proud we would be of her accomplishments. Today she is a beautiful, 15-year-old sophomore at Central High School in St. Paul. She takes accelerated classes and does quite well. She loves to read and takes Latin because she thinks it is fun. She has a fairly large group of friends, and I would describe her as quite happy. While she can be exasperating at times, like any teenager, my husband and I, along with her sister and our extended family, absolutely love the incredibly wonderful person she is becoming.
What I have learned through all of this is that autism is just a label. Katharine was not any different before or after being diagnosed with autism at the age of nine. The label merely gave us better information about how to parent her. I know we will be able to get through any new challenge that comes our way and, when in doubt, we will go right back to Fraser. Our gratitude goes out to all the wonderful staff who have helped us to become better parents and enabled Katharine to achieve her full potential!
- Lynne, Katharine's mother