A LITHUANIAN FAMILY WRITE:
Deep in our hearts we knew that there was something wrong with our daughter, but managed to rock ourselves to sleep pushing this thought away. At the age of 2.5 years she was almost non verbal, never involved herself in social play, enjoyed watching TV commercials, however she had a nice social smile and was not absent. It was until our good friends, who have an autistic son, came to visit us on the occasion of our newborn son, who was 1.5 months old at that time. Our friends suggested that we should contact ISADD and fortunately Charlotta, who was working for ISADD at that time, was in Lithuania at that moment. So immediately we arranged for a visit and so our journey with ISADD has started. In Lithuania, there is no financial support for ABA services and the cost of the program has put a substantial burden on our family, but when you think of your child and her future, probably there is no cost that would be too high. Our daughter’s progress was really fast – she picked up compics so quickly, and it became our first means of communication. Until then she would scream and point, but not say a word. We can clearly remember the day when we went to the zoo and picked up a traveling compic book with us. Our daughter started screaming and we could not realize what she wanted. We handed her a wish plate and a compic book and she immediately found a compic for ice cream and put it on the plate. That was such a relief… The next step was learning to speak and we can still remember tears in our eyes, when our daughter said “Mummy sits” – that was her first sentence. If you asked us, when we did realize, that our journey will be so successful, our answer would be – we KNEW it all the time. It might sound quite rhetorical but KNOWING that we were and still are doing the right and the best evidence-based therapy available was what kept us moving forward. This was strongly supported by my educational background – I hold a PhD in Public Health and am a researcher and an associate professor at the University. Our experience inspired me to read, watch and learn so many things about autism and I soon discovered that there is so little information on autism in Lithuanian and most of it is non- evidence based. So this May two articles written by me on evidence-based methods in managing autism will be published in health and parenting journals. Also, I was invited to a parent TV show and talked about the importance of early signs that parents should notice. Well, these are small steps and they will be continued further.
We would be lying if we said that there were no hard moments in our lives. The first hard thing was to realize that our daughter is different and to fight the fear that she might stay non-verbal and more or less dependent on her family throughout the whole life. This was also accompanied with the fear that our younger son, who was 1.5 months at that time, might be affected. We were so feared that we followed very carefully that each developmental milestone was right on time. And so it was, he started talking very early and currently at the age of 2 years and 4 months he is ahead of his peers. He is extremely sociable and has pushed his sister to get involved in playing with other children.
At one parent day Jura said that three things are essential for a success – the child, the program and the family. We were so lucky that our daughter had a great potential, that we could enter THE PROGRAM early enough and that the great team of supporters – our families always were there for us. And let us express our sincerest and deepest thanks to Jura, Isabella, Zenia and our therapists Simona, Rasa and Aliona for guiding and accompanying us throughout our journey.
Now we have just finished the second year of therapy and the change that occurred gradually is even hard to realize. Our beautiful daughter is learning things naturally; she is cheerful, happy, empathic, full of interesting ideas, plans and finally absolutely comfortable with herself and her peers. She still has to overcome some fear to failure and her articulation needs to be improved but these are minor things compared to what has been achieved. There was a spring feast at kindergarten and we could not believe our eyes when we saw our daughter standing up in front of the parent audience with a couple of other children and saying a short poem clearly, loudly and all by herself. Indistinguishable from other kids, isn’t that the ultimate?
Liudvika and Vytautas