The Grieving Process: Dealing with Autism

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Four-year-old Owen Matts laughs and plays a lot more these days. His tantrums are milder, and he's talking more, but when he was about two, his mother Mendy had a gut feeling that he was just different.

"Just as a mom, you know that something is not quite right," she said.

The signs for Owen were a little clearer cut than most other kids with autism. He had a seizure, and a pediatric neurologist confirmed the diagnosis. But for so long, Mendy says it was hard to know for sure.

"People would say 'Oh, he's a toddler he'll grow out of it," she said.

But finally knowing for sure gave her relief. At least she could put a name to what was going on.

And then all the other emotions flooded in.

"It's a grieving process," she explained, "You look forward to all these things. You see what everyone else is doing with their child. You're mad for a while; you're sad, and then you come around to: he's an awesome kid and he's going to be alright."

And he is. In part, because of the behavioral therapy his parents got for him almost immediately.

At behavioral therapy center BCOTB, Kelley Prince and her team treat kids on all sides of what they call “the autism spectrum”- which goes all the way from the profoundly-affected, to the higher-functioning kids like Owen.

"It's such a spectrum," Kelley said, "They may look like their peers, but they stay on the same subject. It's their social skills. Maybe they're not picking up on nonverbal cues. In a conversation, they kind of appear awkward."

For Owen the prognosis is good, but just like for all autistic kids, the future is uncertain.

There's help for all kids, whatever the age of the child, but they say early intervention is always key.

Owen's dad Derek is patient and hopeful.

"You take solace in the small victories, because there are lots of small victories."

Click here for more information on BCOTB.

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