By Denny, Javier's Mom
In April of 2017, our son, Javier, was diagnosed with Autism and required substantial support. Unsure and confused about what exactly this meant, I felt a big piece of my heart go numb. As parents, we try to study and learn every bit of our children as much as we possibly can. There came a moment in my life with Javi that I felt like no matter what I said, no matter what I did or didn’t do, I just couldn’t reach him. It was as though I spoke a completely different language. Nothing compares to that feeling of defeat as a parent.
With Javi being nonverbal, communication was definitely difficult, to say the least. He would mostly grunt or point and pull me in the direction of what he wanted or needed. We struggled with day-to-day activities, such as eating meals and getting dressed. Even getting him to play with other children seemed like an impossible task.
With his third birthday just around the corner, unfortunately, Javi did not meet the criteria for the early intervention program, and it was recommended that we seek additional services on our own. We were referred to Epic Health Services (now Aveanna), and by July of that year Javi’s occupational therapy sessions began with weekly visits from Ms. Perla.
Needless to say, the first few sessions were definitely difficult. I remember seeing the activities Ms. Perla and Javi would do together and how simple it all seemed. It was overwhelming to think how any of this was going to help him, but reading the evaluation about Javi’s development really shook me. My child was three years old and couldn’t hold a spoon properly, much less throw a ball. I was crushed.
The weekly visits soon became a favorite of Javi’s. Even on his worst days, he managed to gain enough composure to visit with her, or at least enough for some time on his tablet. Javi has now been under Ms. Perla’s guidance for a little over a year and a half. She has taught him independence and guided him towards milestones through play.
As an autism parent, there is a greater significance for every milestone my child reaches. Because of Ms. Perla, my son calls me mom. Because of her, my son can sit down and have a meal using utensils. Because of her, he can throw a ball with dad. Things that once seemed nearly impossible only a year ago are now realities for us.
Our child continues to thrive in his speech and social skills, all thanks to Ms. Perla’s gifts of nurturing compassion and care. Her presence in our life was not planned. I never imagined a life where any form of therapy would be essential to my child’s development. Yet, I cannot imagine anyone else better suited for this life-changing role than her.
Perla – Please know you have solidified the bridge we created to communicate with and better understand our little Javi. You brought me back to the basics and showed me how a little goes a long way. Most importantly, you helped me realize that Javi was still my Javi, no matter his diagnosis. I am so thankful that you chose a profession in which you are clearly passionate and talented. Happy OT Month!