Posted: Jul 26, 2012 12:20 AM by Raising a Special Needs Child
Updated: Jan 10, 2013 10:19 PM
** A quick update on this amazing family!
1/10/13 - We've created a community page for Caitlyn to keep people updated on her life, progress, setbacks, benefits of early intervention, etc. We are also going to be in The Resource Exchange's new brochure, as a featured success story. Click here to follow Caitlyn's story on Facebook.
Our newest Mom on the Move was introduced to us by another 719Mom who wrote in to tell us about Tabitha, a local military mom and mom to a very special little girl.
She wrote, "Please consider my friend Tabitha...I think her story will inspire your readers, especially parents with autistic children." After talking with Tabitha, she definitely inspired us and we wanted to share her journey, struggles and story with all of you.
Two and half years ago Tabitha became a mother, after years of trying, she was finally able to conceive, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Caitlyn. Baby Caitlyn had an uphill battle from the start. She was born with a cleft palate, moderate hearing loss, and severe sleep apnea that caused her to stop breathing for up to 10 seconds at a time, she developed RSV at 6 weeks old, along with bronchitis, pneumonia, and tonsillitis in the first few months of life, and was on oxygen until over a year old.
Tabitha told us, "Through all of that my husband was in Afghanistan and I was alone; it was me and Caitlyn against the world."
At 1 year 4 months old they began to worry because Caitlyn was not speaking. "No language, no sign language, nothing was sticking that I was trying to teach her...we had previously been concerned about her development, but we were too focused on just keeping her healthy and alive to really focus on it until then."
On March 23rd Caitlyn was officially diagnosed with Autism, global development delay, an eating disorder and a sleeping disturbance. Tabitha explains, "My husband was again gone at military school and even though I knew I should have been prepared for those words, I don't think anything can really prepare you as a mother when you find out your child has autism."
How old is Caitlyn now? She turned 2.5 in July.
How have you coped (mentally/physically/emotionally/spiritually) as a mom of a child with unique and special needs?: The number one thing I've leaned on in my faith and belief that God loves Caitlyn as much as I do and wants good things for her life. I have very much leaned on my mom. I am the mother I am today because of her and she's really been there for me through all my ordeals with Caitlyn. We have been very blessed with amazing therapists who have been a great support system for me and sounding board. The Resource Exchange began early intervention and it is such an excellent resource in this state. I went through a 12 week parent training program with them and learned everything I could about ABA. And lastly,as exhausting as the days can get, whatever sleep I can get, keeps me sane!
With all of your hard work with Caitlyn, what are the doctors saying about her progress/treatment and future steps?: She was diagnosed at Denver Children's Hospital and they only do annual reviews,but oh how I wish they could see how much progress she's made in the 4 months since her diagnosis. Her therapists are in awe of her. She went from less than 5 words and 1 sign to over 200 words,over 70 signs,all her ABC's,colors,shapes and counting to 14. Early intervention has been SO key with us,as well as ABA therapy and lots of supplements for her. I think for the most part,everyone is feeling very proud of her and hopeful about her continued progress!
What do you do for fun?: This may sound like a lie,but I promise it's not!! Between being a military family and Caitlyn's separation anxiety,I don't get much time to myself or away from her. Therefore,all my fun usually involves her. Crazy as it sounds,the thing I look forward to most in our day,is first of all, her therapy sessions! I love seeing her learn and grow and seeing how much care and love these women have for my daughter,how invested they are in her life. And my second most fun part of the day is before nap time. We read and talk,tickle and cuddle and I take as long as I need to to put her to sleep,cause these are precious times you can never get back. She'll only be this age once,so I'll have my "adult" fun some other time!
What advice would you give other moms in a similar situation?: I think I would say to always find the good in your child. Even if there's no progress and it's been a horrible day and you can't see the light of day, just find something you love about them and dwell on that. Don't let their special needs define them. I decided that every month on the anniversary of when she got diagnosed,I'd have a "celebrate Caitlyn day" where I wrote her a card and gave her a present and just let her know that I love her exactly the way she is. I would also say,they only get one childhood,so as much as we want to overload them with therapy sometimes and "fix them"; make sure that they get time to be a kid and that you enjoy your time with them. Most importantly,never give up. Always look for ways to better their lives and give them a brighter future.
Tabitha has been asked to speak at the TRE annual fundraiser at the Broadmoor this year. She will talk about her experience and journey with Caitlyn.
Thank you Tabitha for being such an inspiring Mom on the Move.