This RGV Moms guest post is brought to you in partnership with As You Are.
For any mom, one of the hardest things about our role is admitting that our child needs help and then actually seeking it out. Making peace with my suspicions of autism and getting over that mountain of self-doubt was a hard one for me.
But what happens when you seek out a diagnosis and the help you need is booked up for the next six months?
What if there were a faster way to have your child evaluated early in development?
As You Are is a virtual clinic that opened in August 2022. They provide autism diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years via telehealth appointments.
In the world of autism, that’s a game-changer.
Let me rewind just a little bit and elaborate on the journey we took to get to an autism diagnosis.
My son, James, is about to turn six. At about the age of two, I started to recognize some red flags. I advocated for him to begin speech therapy, which he did — without a referral, because “technically” he wasn’t that far behind “yet.”
I’m forever thankful for Lisa, his first speech therapist. She gave me the support I needed in those early days. His second birthday party was hard. We were surrounded by friends and family and should have been full of joy, but James didn’t like the organized games, the noise, being sung to, none of it. I remember smiling through the unknown and watching as he wandered to the back of the room and played alone.
I remember looking at my friend who also has a son with autism and saying with a tear running down my cheek, “I think James is autistic.”
He had just turned two, and it was “early” according to everyone. We continued to work through the meltdowns and speech therapy and waited until his third birthday to move forward with an evaluation.
Some days I was convinced, other days I wasn’t sure.
Early Intervention is Key
Just before turning three, James started half-day PreK and was loving it despite the hard moments. Potty training was hard, his speech was slowly coming along, and the meltdowns kept getting worse.
Our sweet boy was clearly struggling, but we didn’t know why or how to help him.
James has always been very smart, identifying letters and numbers before he could express basic needs, and playing the drums with an incredible rhythm that I wish I had! Another thing we’ve noticed about James, and increasingly so over the years is his ability to empathize with his peers. It’s truly amazing.
Fast forward to his third birthday party. We went to Chuck E. Cheese with just a few friends. The same friend was there with her boys, one of which is about a year younger than James. They were playing a game together and James was so excited, flapping his hands, jumping, and covering his ears. His friend wasn’t, and he also spoke clearly and in long sentences.
Everyone says not to compare, but I think as moms we just can’t help it. What else are we supposed to do when we’re desperate for answers?
As James turned three, it was time to decide on a school. We wanted to make the best decision for him, but this meant that we needed to have him evaluated by a Behavioral Pediatrician. His pediatrician agreed and wrote the referral. The earliest appointment? Summer. Six months away.
Six months? I didn’t want to stay in the status quo for six months when James could be getting the help I knew he needed. He didn’t qualify for traditional speech or occupational therapy without an autism diagnosis. But it was obvious to me that he needed extra help. We could pay a clinic out of pocket, or wait six months for an appointment.
What he needed was an early diagnosis and early intervention.
In our case, a miracle happened. Soon after we got the referral, I called the diagnostician’s office to beg for them to squeeze him in. They had an opening the next week! This doesn’t happen often. Many families have to wait months or even years for their little ones to be seen, evaluated, and diagnosed.
In February 2020, our sweet James was diagnosed with Level 1 Autism. It was overwhelming. But with a diagnosis, so many opportunities opened up for us. We received help and resources, and James was able to start therapies immediately.
The next month the world shut down because of COVID-19. Thankfully, James was already an established patient and continued all his therapies in person. If not, the wait could have been a year or more to get him diagnosed and in therapy.
Now James is almost 6, in Kindergarten in the classroom with speech therapy, occupational therapy, and support from the special education department. Both socially and academically, he is thriving.
I’m so happy to hear about the As You Are virtual clinic. Early intervention is so valuable and proved to be so with our son. If you have any questions, or often wonder about your child, I would encourage you to seek advice, and go ahead and schedule that evaluation. Don’t let fear of the unknown get in the way of getting the help you and your child needs.
Autism does not define James. BUT, knowing how he functions helps us to better raise him, love him, and equip him to grow and thrive in this world.
Take a minute and check out these helpful links
- Why is early diagnosis and intervention important for kids with autism?
- More than Enough: How an Autism Mom Learned to Stop Doubting Herself
- 5 Tips for Coping with an Autism Diagnosis
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments. You can learn more at AsYouAre.com/MomCollective.
As You Are is breaking geographic barriers for families sitting on long waitlists, helping diagnose more children early in development. As You Are accepts all insurance, including Medicaid and TRICARE East. Learn more and get started today at AsYouAre.com/MomCollective. #seenasyouare #yourchildisawesome #autism
Emily Riley is a guest contributor for RGV Moms. She and her husband Jonah grew up in Alabama and came to the Rio Grande Valley to serve across the border doing mission work. They run Enviado Para Amar, a non-profit organization that serves families in Mexico. Their two boys are James (5) and John (3).