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Christian is my oldest son, our first born. He just turned 4 years old on Christmas eve. He’s a sweetheart, very kind, moody at times and, well, he can be very stubborn. Hmm, wonder who he gets that from? Anyway, when David was diagnosed with Autism in March, we really started paying attention to some of the things Christian was doing, or not doing. Christian, aka “CJ” was an early talker, walker, loved to eat and hit all the classic milestones very early. I asked Rick, “When did Christian stop speaking clearly?” “Where was all this mumbling and gibberish-type speech coming from?” Hmm. I guess i hadn’t noticed these little things. “What’s with the tantrums?”

He started lining up objects, throwing tantrums, wanting to watch the same shows repeatedly, reciting an entire movie word for word but unable to speak to me clearly, and he also began this need to hold things in his hand. When i say hold things in his hand, i mean a few hot wheel cars, rocks, and other types of random objects, but he would not let go of them – all day. If an object fell out of his hand, he’d instantly go insane looking for it. And he held objects in his mouth. I wondered, “What was going on?”  He was well on his way to potty training too, then poof – gone. Rick and i chalked it up to too much TV, learning from the other kids, sibling rivalry or jealousy, and needing to be in a center based daycare rather than in family home based daycare. We figured that would help both Christian and David. Prepare for a whirlwind….

We switched Christian, David & Ricky over to center based daycare (like school). Christian went full time and David & Ricky only went 2 days a week. This was one of the most heartbreaking things to do. I literally logged on to the camera webcast (which we had to pay extra for) 24/7 to see what they were doing. I felt so bad. Many times i saw them playing on their own, with each other, but never with other children. Ricky even looked – well –  lonely. I was the worst mom ever! Why was i doing this to them? Here i was taking them to school, when none of them had ever been before. It looked kind of like the scene in Toy Story when the toys are placed in the toddler room rather than the school age room. Chaos – that’s the only way to describe it. The boys were used to being in a home and going to play in a back yard, taking naps on the sofa & having home made snacks, carrying their bottles or juice cups around and playing when they wanted to. I wanted to yank them out and take them home, but i fought myself and decided to wait it out a few days. They told me they had experience with several children who had Autism, and i believed it. Yeah, worst mom ever!

The school/daycare was called Nana’s Playhouse. They lost Christian’s favorite Toy Story box of wipes within the first few days. By the next week they lost his favorite pair of sandals, he was sent home with someone else’s shoes and i never got the other’s back. If i recall correctly, we kept the boys at Nana’s Playhouse for 2 weeks. The straw that broke the camels back was when i picked him up from school one afternoon and his ear looked like Mike Tyson bit it. It was literally fused together and had obviously bled – and a lot. Oh boy did i have words for the director. She maintained that he was fine once they placed an ice pack on his ear and gave me the little boo boo report saying the other child was sent home and since it was his/her second chance, he/she had one more chance to not be violent before he/she was kicked out. I was furious. “Why wasn’t i called?” “He obviously bled!” “He needs to go to his doctor!” “He might need stitches!” “Did this child have a reason to do this?” “How many chances are given to children who continually bite and are violent to other children?” – No answers but plenty of blank stares. Needless to say, I ended our contract right then and there and told them not to bother asking, writing or suing for a two week notice. I never received a request or response. Back to the drawing board – finding another center based daycare.

We found another center based daycare named Kindercare Learning Center. With Kindercare, i honestly thought price meant quality. It was super expensive. They too said they had plenty of experience with children who had Autism. I should have known once one of the directors said, “my nephew is Artistic,” that this wasn’t the place for the boys either.  Now, i will say that Lupe in the infant room – was heavenly! She really loved and took great care of my infant son Ricky. I still appreciate and love her for that. But the toddler room was another story. The teacher in this room really loved David, but, had it out for Christian. I know i sound like the typical over protective mom, but she didn’t get along with him & didn’t make an effort to identify with him. I knew Christian was no angel, but he wasn’t the devil either. It was then i truly realized, he had much more going on in his head and body. He needed to be assessed for Autism. He was not able to function in that classroom. At least not the way they expected him to function. That was why he was taking their puzzle pieces, crayons, magnets, chalk, toys, etc. He had a sensory need and a processing disorder for sure, but there was much more going on. He wasn’t throwing things around on the table – he was flapping, he was overwhelmed with the radio, sounds, kids crying, the vacuuming at the end of the day and he was not eating. He was suffering. I was already actively looking for another place for the boys.

About a month before i removed the boys from Kindercare, Christian came home with a large, dark purple/black bruise on his shoulder (it looked like a very painful bite mark) – i noticed it at bath time. “He bites!” Christian told me. My heart sank, again. I let the director know what happened and she assured me the teacher would keep a closer eye on him. A few days later i got the infamous boo boo report from the teacher. “A child bit Christian on the arm, we talked to the child and parent – shouldn’t happen again.” Hmm, this mark was very light, i never would have guessed it was anything, so i signed it and took the boys home. The next Monday was D-Day. Christian came home with a large dark bite mark on his left cheek. “On his face?!” I told my husband. “Oh no, not again!” “They didn’t give you a slip about this one?” I was furious, again…and kept him out of school the next two days. I did leave the director a message stating that Christian was going to be out of school and they were not going to receive payment because there is obviously a child who has bit him three times and plans to eat him alive. I asked the director to call me back and let me know when the child was leaving the center. We never received a call. Once we went back to Kindercare the director had a boo boo report waiting. She very rudely let me know the child was gone but it was because the parents decided to remove her on their own.

The next few weeks were astonishing. Each day we went to pick up Christian, there was a boo boo report – but this time they were about Christian. They wanted to report in writing that he was now a problem. I fought back tears many times. These reports were stupidity. Examples: He threw a math card (a playing card) at the teachers head, he hit another child & he kicked the teacher. Stupidity! It was obvious they wanted him gone. I met with the director and she of course took the teacher’s side. I let her know that they really had no business telling parents that they knew how to work with children with Autism or any disability. I also let her know her teacher was a liar and pathetic to pull a stunt like this. It was just so convenient that Christian was written up on the days his brother David and the ABA therapist were out – he had no one on his side. My poor son. I put in the two week notice the same day. The worst mom ever strikes again. Ugh. It was complete stress, but necessary to get the boys home with me & family as much as possible – for their sake, the ABA therapist sake, and mine!

One of David’s therapist gave an awesome suggestion – Fresno City College Child Development Center (FCC CDC). The FCC CDC is NAEYC accredited which means the National Association of the Education of Young Children has accredited their center. Upon speaking to the directors at FCC, it was clear that they were far more experienced and truthful about the care they offer for children with special needs at their center. The cost is more than half less than the previous one we were at & Deborah and Raquel understood me and welcomed our family. There was just one catch – they could only accept Christian and David – Ricky cannot attend for another year (until he is 24 months old). We switched everything around as far as work/school/ ABA schedules & daycare but we’ve managed to make it work – so far. Maybe i’m not the worst mom ever?

In between applications to FCC CDC, I had Christian assessed at CVRC, Kaiser ASD Center – Rancho Cordova, Kaiser – Genetics, Kaiser- Psyche/MH – Fresno, Developmental Pediatrician – Dr. Broadhurst & Kings Canyon Unified School District (just like David).  These assessments & their outcomes almost took any glimmer of happiness and hope out of me. To be continued…

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