Who we are
We are the proud parents of four beautiful boys: Thomas (11), George (10), Peter (7) and Charlie (5). Our son Peter is autistic, which means that autism touches our whole family.
Peter’s autism is a part of who he is, and that can mean so many things. His behaviours can be exhausting, stressful, and due to his energy, can feel never-ending. They can also be incredibly beautiful, expressive and loving. Peter requires significant help and support. He is mostly non-verbal, not toilet trained, has sensory processing challenges and can be very rigid with routines. He is also an incredibly smart, funny and affectionate little boy who teaches us every day about perseverance and love.
Months before Peter’s second birthday, we noticed a regression in his communication and social skills. Family and friends tried to be supportive and said things like, “he is just a late bloomer”, or related stories about someone they knew who started talking later. We weren’t sure why this was happening but knew something wasn’t right and took him to see our family doctor. Not knowing what was wrong was very scary, but ultimately several months later just after his second birthday, Peter was diagnosed with autism.
Raising an Autistic child
We, like most parents, had no real idea about what this diagnosis meant for Peter or our family. We were drawn into this world which we still struggle to understand today. We put Peter’s name on countless waitlists and filled out many forms. Desperate to try anything and everything to give him tools to thrive, we consulted with many specialists, even trying different diets and supplements. We recognized that we needed to focus on our ability to communicate, so we found a speech therapist who gave us some invaluable tools to start building a foundation of how to connect with Peter.
Helping our son reach his full potential
After four and a half years, along with some trial and error, we learned that a combination of ABA, speech and occupational therapy is what Peter and our family need to ensure he can reach his full potential. To say that his incredibly dedicated and professional team of therapists has changed our world would be an understatement. Today, Peter is thriving. He is in grade one at a public school three days a week with an educational assistant who helps and teaches him. Our school has been incredibly supportive and open to working with Peter’s therapists who are there with him, guiding the school staff to better understand how to teach Peter.
Peter’s needs represent a huge time commitment, and as parents, we want to give everything to each of our kids. His brothers have had to learn to make compromises and sacrifices. We try to compensate for those, which means that we as parents are often doing more than we can handle. But through it all, Peter is teaching his brothers too. They have developed an incredible sense of empathy, kindness, understanding and generosity towards others. It is beautiful to see Thomas, George and Charlie interact with Peter and other children with special needs. We know Peter will always have these essential people loving him and looking out for him.
We have also come to realize that advocating for Peter’s needs and rights will always be a huge priority for us. Governments come and go, and some seem to neglect their responsibility to protect the most vulnerable by providing the support they need to thrive. While our advocacy efforts represent a lot of hard work, we have also discovered a wonderful community of families, professionals and supporters who make us feel less alone. We have made lifelong friendships that help us through the challenges and celebrate the victories and milestones with us.
Most importantly, we recognize that Peter’s autism has changed us all for the better. We are more patient, accepting and try to live every day to its fullest. Peter has shown us what hard work and determination look like and that he is capable of so much. He is a person who happens to learn differently. We hope that someday we will live in a world that recognizes and values differences and has the will and imagination to give everyone what they need to live to their individual potential.
If you have any questions regarding the new OAP or how it impacts yourself or your family, please connect with your child’s Senior Therapist or our Children and Family Advisor Team at 1-866-653-2397.
By Marguerite Schabas & Steven Sherwood