The monkey has been in speech therapy since he was first diagnosed at two and a half years old. During the pandemic in 2019, the therapy went virtual. And he did terrible. He hated it. He was home and wanted to play, not work. We hated it because we would need to force him to sit down and try to listen. It was torture for all of us. We tried it for a month and then we cancelled. We realized this was not working for anyone.
Then in 2021 they said we could go back with the condition that the monkey does not touch the therapist. This is very hard since he is very affectionate. He likes to hug constantly. We realized this is also not going to work.

Then last year, I was reading an article about kiddos with autism. It mentioned that most kids on the spectrum have regressed socially due to the pandemic. And I knew this was us. My son only went to school and back. He did not want to go anywhere else. We have tried taking him to Home Depot but that was a quick trip and it was early in the morning, where there are not a lot of people. I tried Dollar General one time. He did terrible. He fell to the floor, didn’t want to get up. I was trying to carry my bags and get him up and I was unsuccessful. The cashier was very kind and kept reassuring me not to worry and to take my time, even though there was a huge line. She grabbed my bags and took them outside to the car while I carried a screaming kid.

I always tell people that doing typical things outside our home requires bravery. And many times I don’t have it. Being home is safe and it is easy.

But after reading that article I talked to my husband and told him we need to go back to therapy. He needs help and we need to venture out of our comfort zone.

We started therapy in October, and it was brutal. We were assigned a therapist that had just gotten her degree. She had no experience. The monkey hated it. He fought us all the way there, during, and the drive home. After the first week I told my husband I had made a mistake. We needed to cancel therapy. But we didn’t. We kept trying. She lasted for a little over a month until she called it quits. She was worried for the monkey’s safety and hers.

But when the owner, Ms. N., called us about this change, she told me she sees a lot of potential in the monkey. Ms. N said she’d like to work with him if we were willing to give it another shot.
Our first session, it was him being dragged inside. It was him fighting us, trying to scratch us and her. He kept trying to escape so we would keep guard at the door. The second time was the same. Rinse and repeat.

But the second week, when he was pulling her hair and I’m trying to protect her, I told her maybe it is bet if we just end it. This is not working out. She told me: “Mom, if we end it he won’t get better. We need to keep trying.” So we stayed.
After it was over, my husband took him to the car. As I am picking up the shoes he threw, and trying to clean up the mess he made, very gently Ms. N touches my hand and says: “Mom, if you don’t give up, I won’t either. I’m in this if you are.”
I became very teary and said Ok. I’m in this too.
Fast forward to now, 6 months since we started seeing Ms. N. The monkey says Papa, Mama, Brown, and the word More. I just can’t believe this. After 11 years, he is starting to say a few words.
Ms. N told me that the monkey wants to talk. He wants to communicate. We just need to find the way in. I smiled and said yes he does. But I have been in this road before. We have had hope and it eventually dwindles because we know how this ends.

But Ms. N was adamant. And she realized that keeping him in a corner, forcing him to work like the other therapist have done, it wasn’t working for the monkey. He hated coming and he was tired from all day at school. So Ms. N changed her approach. She lets him do whatever he wants. He plays with the large bouncing ball, he watches the television, he colors, and he plays with his iPad. But she plays with him. And while they are playing together, she will tell him: This marker is brown. Say brown. Brrrrroooooowwwwwwnnnn. She stretches the sounds. She puts on gloves, and touches his face and helps him mimic her lips. B, B , B Brrrrrroooooooowwwwwwnnnnn. We could hear them in the waiting room. And we could hear he was trying but it wasn’t coming out correctly. She will celebrate his intent. Congratulate him on a great job. And then keep trying.


And then we heard it. Clear as day. He said brown. I didn’t get too excited at first. I figured it is just a coincidence that he sounded it almost like brown. He has done this before. He makes sounds and sometimes they sound like an actual word.

But she kept asking him throughout the session and he kept saying it: Brown. Brown. Brown.
My husband and I were in awe. We kept looking at each other with an expression of: “Is this real? Is this really happening?” After being with Ms. N for only a couple of months, we could see a change.
During this time, our insurance cancelled us. Something was not summitted and we needed to wait until we could get approved again since we were dropped. Ms. N calls me to tell me this. I was heartbroken.

But during the call, Ms. N says: “But don’t worry mama. We will continue this. We can’t stop. We worked too hard for this progress simply to let it all go.”

She continued seeing us even though we were not insurance. She continued seeing us without being paid.

It took a couple of months and then we were eventually re-instated. Ms. N said she would try to submit past therapies to see if she’d get reimbursed, and she did. The insurance accepted past sessions.

Ms. N sees my son. She sees past his disability. She genuinely cares for him. And it is beautiful to see how they ‘play’ together. He sees her as his play buddy. And he loves going there.
I am always in awe at people that work in with the special needs’ population. I always tell people that autism chose us, but they chose autism to help people like my family. And I am immensely grateful.

For the first time we have hope that my son may talk. Maybe it won’t be full sentences, maybe it will only be words. Hope is a delicate thing to have. It can bring great celebrations, or immense heartaches.

But if I live in the now and try not to think about the future. If I take a step back and see how far we have come, I can say something I never thought I’d say: My son can say the word Mama.


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