Keep Searching for HOPE

June 22, 2016

I recently had the honor of attending a Dr visit with one of our clients.

Anxiety was running high for all parties. For more than half a decade I have watched this mom try everything to help her son. We had attended countless appointments with this client and mother, leaving with a new hope or a new plan every time. Each time we were let down in some capacity due to lack of knowledge, support, or realistic expectations from various professionals. At best, we were cautiously optimistic.

It was a stressful visit because it was a new dr and he is a psychiatrist. After a full year of little to no improvement through intensive behavioral strategies the family made the decision to investigate medication.
Let that sink in for a moment. A YEAR OF LITTLE TO NO IMPROVEMENT in serious behavior challenges. Day after day of having to cope with behaviors that impacted the way this client learned, lived, and interacted with anyone. To a family living with autism there is nothing scarier than lack of progress.
This mother fought the good fight against medicating her child for many years. Hope Center for Autism supported that decision and worked tirelessly, continually perfecting behavior plans for this client. Medication is scary to special needs parents for many reasons. In this case, this client does not have the ability to verbally express side effects he experiences. Deciding to medicate is never an easy decision.

We enter the office, which was very simple and a bit small, to find a tall slender man who had a very calm and gentle presence. As he began to talk, he explained his thoughts on what autism is. After a few words I scrambled for my note pad because I knew right away I was going to want to share this dr visit with you all.

This mom knows autism, she has lived it full force for many years so I was interested to see how this went down. I have sat in so many dr visits only to have parents talked down to and ending up leaving defeated.

He began by saying autism is a social deficit. People with autism don’t understand or feel the need for much of what we find socially important.
I was on the edge of my seat, I love this stuff. It seemed for a second this was his full definition. Then he began to talk again, he shared that under that social defect we find they deal with a lot of anxiety, which leads to the behaviors. We see ODD issues and we see ADD. He then talked about each area one at at time starting with anxiety. He explained the need for slow and consistent rules and structure. At this point I am screaming cheers and joy in my head. He talked a little about the ODD side of behaviors and the importance of being consistent in all areas of their life and all environments.
The third was the ADD area, he explained the need for family to be organized, structured to set the child up for success by being consistent.

As someone who devotes there life to talking to and teaching parents these principals daily I was so excited to know there is a specialist in Fort Worth, Texas, that understands what we do. We found someone that believes what we believe and teaches this information to families living with autism in his medical practice.

He explained that the things that are needed for this child’s success were not going to be found in a pill bottle. That behavior modification is a must for his success and his future. Mom explained that they have all of those things in place. Their family follows the plans set in place by Hope Center for Autism faithfully. We agreed with what she had said and shared her commitment giving the dr examples of mom’s level of devotion: attending parent training, parent coaching, she emails at least twice a week to stay on the same page with our programming, etc. He was very reinforcing to mom. Moms need reinforcement. He told her this was not her fault, that she was not a failure for seeking outside help. Moms need to hear this. They need to hear that they are not to blame for their child’s autism. It doesn’t matter how many other people have said it, they need to hear those words over and over… forever- because the pain of not knowing how to help your child lasts FOREVER.
This mom needed to hear that again this day. I’ve said it to her a hundred times. Yet when this doctor spoke those words, she melted. She quickly wiped the tears of anguish and exhaled. She needed this assurance at that very moment.
He listened as she explained her concerns and struggles. At this point they began to talk meds. Mom said no to his first suggestion which he understood and respected her concerns. They arrived on a plan of action, the dr shared that this is not a fix, it is a support.

There are several reasons I wanted to share this story. We have had so many negative dr visits. With the medical community being out of touch with what science and research has proven works for this population, I wanted to encourage you by knowing there are good doctors out there.
At some point all moms have the super-hero mindset that they can conquer autism alone. And at some point every autism parent will find a time, place, or incident when they finally realized they could not do it alone. The guilt that tangles itself into special needs parents’ brains is overwhelming. Every single parent deserves to have a professional in their corner. This doctor was it. As parents, you have to find someone to trust. This doctor built a repertoire with this mother and client in a remarkably short period of time for mainly one reason: he made our struggles and our worries for this family his own. He showed the care and compassion.
Second, I found his simple to the point explanations refreshing and interesting. Ok so I totally loved it! The words I use daily being used by this doctor was just plain awesome!. But also I wanted to share the struggle this family endured from a totally biomedical, all natural approach (which was extremely successful for years) to making a choice to try a different way. There is not one path to success in the world of autism. Oh how great it would be if there was one choice, one direction, one pill.
ABA has the science and research. Biomedical has great results for many. Medication helps families daily. Find your way. Find what works for your child. Never stop looking for an answer. There is no quick fix. There is no guarantee that any one treatment will work- but without support and love it is next to impossible to find it.
Find support; find what works for you and your family. Never stop.

Susan Wood
Executive Director
Hope Center for Autism