Letter: Grateful for services for Autistic child

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To the editor,

My name is Denise Clark and I am the mother of Richard Orrin Clark IV. We call him Ricky. He was educationally diagnosed with Autism in September of 2010, and clinically diagnosed in November of 2010. This is his story…

My husband and I sensed early on that something was not right, but we didn’t want to believe it, and we kept telling ourselves that Ricky would “come around.” During a routine doctor’s visit when he was 13 months old, I convinced myself to ask Ricky’s doctor if I should be concerned that he wasn’t talking yet. He replied, “Well, he sure is vocal,” as Ricky twirled in circles yelling his nonsense, “but if you’re worried, call Birth To Three, they will come to your home to evaluate him.”

As I tried to convince my husband that this call was necessary, he convinced me I was being too hard on him. “He’s just a baby.” He convinced me. So, on we went with being patient. But the more I came into contact with what I now know to be “neuro-typical toddlers” of his same age, the more I was able to convince myself to make the call—against my husbands wishes.

Birth To Three came to our home to evaluate Ricky. When they finished they informed us that Ricky was indeed eligible for Birth To Three services. He was delayed in the areas of receptive and expressive language. His strengths were in fine and gross motor skills. I will never forget that yellow piece of paper they handed me—this yellow “confirmation” paper.

I asked, with hesitation, “Does he have Autism?”

They said they would not sugar coat it for me, “There were some signs leaning toward Autism.” And so started what would be the first of many tears I would cry for my son Ricky.

This particular Birth To Three agency worked with Ricky for two hours a week, for four months. They then decided that Ricky should get further evaluated by a different Birth To Three Agency called “First Partners” out of Easter Seals in Waterbury because they deal more specifically with Autism.

First Partner’s confirmed the autism diagnosis, and determined that Ricky was eligible for 20 hours a week of intensive therapy. The first Birth to Three program had started Ricky on his way, but it was with First Partners that he really started to come out of his shell. For the first time in his life, he was aware of his loving parents, and he was starting to communicate in his own way.

First Partners has provided Ricky and us with the tools we need to continue to help him develop. His improvement has been remarkable and I shudder to think of where we would be had these services not been available to us, as we do not have the financial means to enable us to provide those services on our own. Without Easter Seals, Birth to Three, and First Partners, Ricky would still be closed up in his own little world. Now, we have hope and encouragement for his future.

I could go on about the changes they brought about in Ricky. I could do the same for how they’ve helped my husband and I through the toughest time in our lives. They’ve taught us so many skills and strategies to help our son, and they have provided much needed support at a most difficult time.

My husband and I are firmly convinced that these services have provided Ricky with the foundation he needs to get started. Our hope is that he will be “caught up” with other children of his age in a relatively few years, and that he will be able to lead a normal life.

There are others out there, other families, other children, struggling with Autism and other disabilities, who benefit without doubt from federal and state funding for these early intervention services. Please don’t ever cut the budget for these life changing treatments. With out them, our future and theirs will suffer.

I am forever grateful for the privilege of my son benefiting from these services. If cuts are to be made, surely you can find less vital services to eliminate.

Thank you for hearing my sincere words. I truly hope that you now have a clearer understanding of the importance of Birth To Three and it’s availability to all those who need it.

I would be happy to introduce you to our son so that you could see for yourself how important these services are to him, and countless others like him.

Denise Clark

Naugatuck