Mandy and Joseph’s Story :: One Mom’s Autism Journey {The Emerge Center}

Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by The Emerge Center. That said, we appreciate this beautifully honest post written by Mandy Cowley, Emerge parent, & Brandi Monjure, Communications and Events Coordinator at The Emerge Center, as much as we do! 

Take a moment to think about the typical, everyday stresses you face as a mom.

  • Twenty birthday invitations need to be mailed tomorrow.
  • Dinner for five needs to be on the table in an hour.
  • Two kids need to brush their teeth, take a bath, and be in bed by eight.

It all adds up, and we know you stay busy juggling it all! Now imagine adding just a few more variables into that equation…Therapy for your child is too expensive to be able to plan a birthday party this year. Your child has no appetite for dinner. They can’t hold a toothbrush to brush their teeth. They’re overwhelmed by the noises and sensations of taking a bath. And, since they’re non-verbal, you don’t hear “goodnight, mama,” after you tuck them in bed.

For a busy parent of a child with a communication disorder, developmental delay, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, knowing where to start can be extremely overwhelming. As a parent, you may be able to tell that something isn’t right, but a child’s behavior could mean a variety of things. Are they just acting out? Are their difficulties due to a processing disorder? Could they have Autism? In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, we want to share a story of hope. This story comes from Mandy, parent and Social Media Manager The Emerge Center for the Red Stick Moms Blog! If you’re a loyal reader, you know Mandy has a son with Autism. What you haven’t heard is the journey of his diagnosis and progress he’s made through various therapies with us at The Emerge Center. We’re honored to be involved in Mandy and her family’s journey and are excited to share this story with you!

Mandy & Joseph’s Story :: One Mom’s Autism Journey {The Emerge Center}

Shortly after Joseph was born, we knew he was different. Even at a few weeks old he wasn’t keeping pace with his peers. He wasn’t following things with his eyes, reaching for objects, or reacting to sounds like the other babies were. Every time I would take him to the doctor and was asked to fill out one of those developmental surveys, I felt hopeless. I found myself downplaying his atypical behaviors and pretending like he was developing normally, but he just wasn’t. I kept thinking, “He’ll catch up; this is just a phase.” Then his peers started talking and he didn’t, and I couldn’t pretend anymore.

A few months after his second birthday, when Joseph was still only making nonsensical sounds while his peers were speaking in sentences, I finally got bold enough to ask our pediatrician specifically about Autism. I outlined all of the “symptoms” I had observed. In addition to his speech delay, Joseph was obsessive about things – how his food was arranged on his plate, how his toys were lined up, how we drove to school. He was spinning all the time and having epic meltdowns. That’s a short list of what we had been seeing. After a lengthy conversation and over two years of evidence, our pediatrician felt comfortable making the Autism diagnosis.

To be honest, we were relieved because we knew the diagnosis would help us access resources he desperately needed, and I felt like I finally had something to help explain his behaviors. The same day he was diagnosed, our doctor made a referral to The Emerge Center.

Joseph started attending group speech therapy at Emerge just before his third birthday. If I am being totally honest, I was skeptical when we first started because Joseph had been receiving speech and occupational therapy services through the state for a couple of years with progress that had been slow, difficult, and discouraging. Then, just a few weeks into therapy at Emerge, something happened and I realized that this place was different.

One afternoon we were leaving a group session and Joseph had an epic meltdown in the hallway because we turned left out of his classroom instead of right. As he banged his head on the floor, scratched and pinched his arms, and screamed at the top of his lungs, all I could do was sit on the floor holding him and weeping. I felt so alone, defeated, hopeless, and embarrassed. The first staff person that saw us, someone I had never met before, stopped and offered to help. Then his speech therapist ran down the hall to help. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone anymore. When he finally calmed down, his therapist hugged me and told me it was going to be okay. She pulled in an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapist to give me suggestions on helping Joseph through his meltdowns. We were only at Emerge for speech therapy, we had only been there for a few sessions, yet the staff gave us everything they had. His therapist could have easily pretended she didn’t hear us. That first staff member who saw us could have walked on by. The ABA therapist wasn’t getting anything in return for providing her expertise. Yet they all showed up in a big way. That has been our experience every day since at Emerge – a staff that is consistent, committed to excellence, and genuinely invested in the development of the kids they come in contact with.

When spring rolled around, we learned about their Bloom program, a therapeutic preschool Therapeutic Preschool Classroom at The Emerge Center environment. I immediately fell in love with the concept. Joseph had been attending a traditional daycare for three years and, although the daycare staff was compassionate, they were not knowledgeable about Autism. Our days at daycare had often been filled with frustrating phone calls from exasperated teachers trying to figure out how Joseph could be less disruptive. I then knew from our experience at Emerge that Joseph was not a disruption, he was just a child with Autism with the potential for incredible growth if placed in the right environment with the right people.

Joseph has been in Bloom since August 2015 and we could not be more thrilled with what we have seen. The child we love and live with today is totally different than the child that walked into Emerge eighteen months ago. He is growing and learning, and he is so happy. He loves going to “school,” and the staff has made it so easy for us to continue his progress in our home. Joseph’s time at Emerge has changed our lives and I could never extend enough “thank yous” to the therapists and aides who have poured into our son. We’ve worked with a lot of therapists in the past five years and explored other centers. None even begin to come close to the excellence at Emerge. Not only are they experts in what they do, they are genuine people who are committed to providing the best possible care for the kids they interact with and giving hope to families who feel like they are at the end of their rope. They are positive, accessible, and dedicated – all things an Autism parent and an autistic child need.

When I lay my head down at night, I know that not only are we fighting for our son’s happiness and development, but we have an entire team of people who are in our corner, and that is truly priceless.

Do you want to learn more about The Emerge Center? Visit their website or call (225) 343-4232 for more information. 

The Emerge Center is a 501 c (3) nonprofit organization that provides services for children with communication, behavior and developmental delays. They also provide psychological services to children through adolescence, and audiology services for all ages. Their Autism Programs are designed specifically for children ages 18 months to 7 years and are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This is the most widely supported evidence-based treatment approach for establishing language, self-help skills, social skills and reducing maladaptive behavior. What separates Emerge from others is their unique approach to therapy. Their inter-disciplinary team includes licensed School and Clinical Psychologists, Licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Speech-Language Pathologists, and Occupational Therapists, along with trained Registered Line Technicians. By working with all or part of their team, each child has a customized treatment program developed specifically for them, rooted in evidence-based research that addressed each child’s individual needs.

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