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A Child’s Journey Out of Autism

One Family’s Story of Living in Hope and Finding a Cure

A Child’s Journey Out of Autism by Leeann Whiffen
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The therapy costs $30,000. We'd be mortgaging our lives and our savings on something we're not even sure could help our son. But the clock is ticking: the longer we wait, the harder it will be to pull him out of this shell. How are we going to afford it? How can we not afford it?When Clay Whiffen was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, his parents didn't know where to turn. They refused to believe that he could not be cured, and began to try every therapy they could afford - and many they couldn't. In this extraordinary story of one family's struggle with autism, Leeann Whiffen gives voice to the fear of losing a child and the fight to reclaim him, exploring what treatments eased her son Clay's symptoms, where the Whiffens found support, and how the family conquered one of the toughest challenges a child can face.With a foreword by autism specialist Dr. Bryan Jepson, A Child's Journey out of Autism spells out what treatments worked, where the family found help, and how they made it through this crushing crisis. In a time of despair and confusion - when another child is diagnosed with autism every 20 minutes - this is a profound, proven message of hope for anyone whose life is touched by the disorder.
Sourcebooks, Inc.; January 2009
338 pages; ISBN 9781402223921
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: A Child’s Journey Out of Autism
Author: Leeann Whiffen
I amble out into the balmy June morning with a pregnant swagger. The fog is still heavy in the air at 6:00 a.m. My hospital bag clutched under my arm, I maneuver my awkwardbody up and into the car. I hear the thumping of Sean's fingers and turn to see him tapping the keys of an imaginary piano on the steering wheel. As we drive to the hospital, I think about Drew, our two-year-old son, who can't wait to meet his brother. I envision the boys growing up together as best friends, sticking up for each other amidst trouble, playing sports together, sharing a room, double dating. It is then I remember why we chose to have our babies so close together.Just as I'm settling into my room at John Muir Hospital, gentle music begins pouring through the hallways. I look at Sean, puzzled. He points up at the intercom in the ceiling. As it plays longer, I recognize the familiar melody. Brahms' "Lullaby.""What's this?" I ask, looking upward."Another baby was just born," my nurse says, like she has answered the same question over a hundred times this week."Oh, how nice," I say.I think about how lucky I am that I'm even here on this day, June 20, 2000. I'm overdue. Consuming slice after slice of "prego pizza," a specialty pie with every topping in the house that Skipolini's claims will kick-start labor, didn't deliver anything but severe intestinal distress. When my OB/GYN offered to induce, I instantly took him up on it.I squeeze Sean's hand, noting his boyish hairline and dark chocolate eyes. His masculine, geometric jawline beckons my gaze. I mouth the words, "I love you." Holding up his hand he grins slightly to one side and flashes me the "I love you" sign.The entire labor process blurs, setting itself apart from my grueling first delivery. I clench Sean's hand again, this time so hard he pretends to grimace dramatically. I shoot him the look that says, you are silly to try and tease me now. "Push," the doctor says again. "He's almost there.""One more time!" Sean says excitedly, leaning in closer. I bear down with all the energy I can marshal. I feel the blood rush to my face and the veins pop out of my head and neck as I strain to deliver this new life into our world."There he is," I hear the doctor say in a calm low voice.A tiny, shrill cry penetrates the air. I lift my head off the pillow and smile, seeing his wet, curly hair matted to his head. His scrawny reddish-purple body swims in the hands of the doctor.A feeling of peace and reverence fills the room.The doctor hands the scissors to Sean and shows him where to cut the umbilical cord. The nurses take our son to the sink and wash him. They wrap him tightly in a thin blanket and put a beanie on his head. The room is quiet except for his tiny cries. The doctor takes him from the nurse and places him in my arms. I brush my lips against his face and inhale his sweet smell. I kiss his soft, warm head and nestle him close to me. Brahms "Lullaby" softly plays above.I hold him only for a brief moment before one of the nurses whisks him away to weigh him and check his vitals."He scored a 9 on his Apgar test and his measurements were right on target," the nurse says.She hands him back to me and places him on my chest. His warm body relaxes me. He stretches and squeaks so much he sounds like a dry hinge. I quickly glance at his hands and feet to ensure he has all five fingers and toes. I pull down the front of his diaper. "Everything is there," I whisper, easing my new mom jitters. I exhale a mental sigh of relief as I look at his tiny hand clasped over my first finger."So far so good," I say, looking over at Sean."Our baby boy is a healthy, normal little newborn. He's beautiful, and so are you," Sean says."I'm so happy, sweetie.""Me too," he says, stroking my face and hair.At that moment I realize that I love him more than I ever have.At a few days old, Clay seems to be the perfect baby. I revel in his mild temperament and wonder how I got so lucky—Drew had colic, and I was dreading it again. He only wakes twice in the night to breast-feed, and rarely cries. I'm thrilled with his disposition.Clay's first week goes by, and we take him into the pediatrician for his first well-child visit. She highly recommends he receive the hepatitis B shot at this visit."You'll need to sign this first," she says, handing me a clipboard with a consent form.I scrawl my signature at the bottom of the paper without looking it over."What mother who cares at all about her child would refuse to vaccinate them?" I ask her as I mentally pat myself on the back for being so conscientious."Oh," she chuckles, "You'd be surprised.""We are so fortunate to have two healthy boys. I could never live with myself if they were to get sick with a preventable disease."She hands me an immunization schedule. "In order to keep Clay healthy, you'll need to make sure to bring him in for all of his well-child visits.""Of course. We won't forget."Four weeks pass and Clay seems less happy. He cries a little more, sleeps a little less. By his sixth week, he cries incessantly and hardly sleeps at all. His behavior evolves into days and nights filled with piercing screams, an arching back, and inconsolable crying. Soon Clay rarely sleeps for longer than thirty minutes at a time. He jerks awake, screaming frantically as if someone is pinching him. The area surrounding his eyes looks like a bull's-eye from lack of sleep. I'm frustrated because I don't know how to help him. His shrill screeches arouse every nerve in my body, wearing them raw. I get so attuned to hearing them, even everyday sounds like the running dishwasher mimic his cries.I call the pediatrician, who says, "Oh, yes, it's probably just gas. Don't worry too much." She recommends some over-thecounter drops to help ease the "supposed pain" in his stomach. I hang up the phone, bolt to the drugstore, and purchase the drops that will hopefully solve all our problems. We begin using them right away, but it doesn't seem to help. As his crying becomes more intense, so too does the constant reminder that I'm failing to meet his needs. I spend entire days rocking him, cuddling him, talking to him. I play soft music, and Drew and I sing to him.Yet nothing I do seems to comfort him.
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