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This was an emotional episode for me to watch. Talking about Nick's Autism diagnosis is still very new and painful, although there's hope. My husband told the truth when he said I was very emotional. I still have my moments of weakness, but I gain my strength from those moments. The support of my husband, my family, my friends, and all those that have reached out to us have given me my strength, hope, and encouragement to keep up the fight to recover our child. Thank you for that! XO!
I need to clear up my husband’s memory of what the doctor actually told me regarding my pregnancy when my son's heartbeat wasn't found. What he said wasn't really fair to the doctor. Let me explain: I had gone in for an ultrasound to check the baby’s heartbeat around my 6th week of pregnancy. The doctor wasn't able to be in the room with me that day, so a technician did my ultrasound. They weren't allowed to read the results to me without the doctor being present. I had to wait to hear from him. I left for Atlantic City to shoot our first Bravo promo pictures for Season 1, where I wore that fuchsia pink dress. We were just finishing up when I got the call from my doctor telling me that they couldn't find my baby's heartbeat during my ultrasound. He told me that my hcg levels were high enough that we should have been able to see something on the monitor. It was his opinion that it looked like it could be another miscarriage. After having 5 previous miscarriages, I was devastated to hear that news again. I cried the whole way home. The doctor told me I could wait it out to see if I would miscarry naturally or come in and have them assist in terminating the pregnancy. I decided to wait it out another week and then go in to check for the heart beat once again before deciding. I prayed a lot that week. Sure enough, a week later, there was a beautiful heartbeat! My baby was thriving! We were thrilled! We consider him our miracle baby! We waited a long time for him. He is truly a blessing.
I was very excited and grateful to get the opportunity to write for Parenting Magazine for the past 6 months. It gave me a great platform to share our Autism Journey and help others. If you missed my articles, you can read them on my website www.JacquelineLaurita.com where I have them posted. I was in their magazine and also in their online blogs. The scene you saw was my first video blog. As you could tell, I wasn't used to talking openly about the diagnosis. It was still very raw and painful. I did my best. The people at Parenting Magazine were wonderful, and I thank them so much for the amazing opportunity they gave me.
At the beginning of an Autism diagnosis, it's really important to make sure that everyone involved in your child's life is on the same page and knows the roles they will have to help in your child's recovery. My husband and I make a great team. We both know our roles. I do most of the gathering of research, sifting through and organizing it all. I research everything from therapies, therapists, doctors, special diets, reading food labels, supplementation, sensory toys, soft clothing, schools, charities, going green in the house, how to deal with tantrums, sleepless nights, books, learning DVDs, you name it and I've probably researched it. If some information comes my husband’s way, he passes it on to me. I deal with most of the day-to-day things with Nicholas such as dressing him, feeding him, getting him ready for and driving him to and from school, and giving Nick his supplements in the morning. Chris does the evening supplement doses. That's a job in itself. Chris drives CJ to school.I go to school classroom observations and meet with therapists. We both go to IEP meetings and doctor visits. Chris has taken over a lot in the cooking department while I take Nicholas in his daily Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments. Chris handles all paperwork for insurance company billing and I make sure the therapists are paid. We both speak at Autism events and conferences to spread Autism Awareness. We both take the time to learn as much as we can from others. Our amazing niece/babysitter, Sarah, picks up all of our slack when we can't be there.
We both work hard but we always make sure that we take the time for each other. Chris is my rock! We also have to make sure we dedicate special one-on-one time with our son CJ so he gets the attention he deserves as well. With all of our new responsibilities to juggle, mixed in with our usual everyday demands, I think we do a pretty darn good job working as a team. It does get stressful at times, but we will stick it out and fight for our child. We will never give up. It's a joy and a challenge every single day!
Neither Chris nor I want to see any of our kids struggle, so it's very painful to see how hard Nick has to work everyday to reach his goals. We've learned to appreciate and celebrate Nick’s accomplishments no matter how small it may seem to others. The moments that parents of typical kids often take for granted are the moments that we cherish the most. Those moments give us hope. It shows our child is progressing. It's what we pray for.I used to disappear and go upstairs for a cry during our weekend family gatherings, because it was very hard for me to see my child not interacting with our family in the way that I wished he could. I wished that he could interact and entertain our family the same way that his cousin, Joey, who is 2 weeks younger could. It was difficult not to compare or notice their differences. It broke my heart. We all were struggling with his diagnosis, and everything that came with it, in our own way. It's really hard to focus on other things when you're worrying about your child. Somehow we manage. It had become our mission to recover him and help as many others as we can.
At this point in time, Nicholas had started preschool at a typical school with an IEP in an inclusion classroom. He gets about 6 hours of therapy there. ABA, Speech and Language, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Self Help skills, Yoga, Music Therapy, Art, Gym, Library, Therapy Dog, etc. He loves school and his teachers are amazing with him.
We also have him in after school home therapy programs for 2-3 hours a day. Above and Beyond Learning Group (ABLG) (http://ablg.org/) comes to do ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) with him. It teaches him compliance. ABA is a very effective therapy for children on the Autism spectrum.We also had been working with a woman by the name of Lisa Gold, who was referred to me by someone whom she had helped with getting their nonverbal child to speak. Lisa refers to her type of therapy as "Naturalized Autism Therapy" (http://www.theautismtherapist.com/#!lisa-b-gold-ma/c1sja). Her ways were less traditional than our other therapists. She has a very different approach that other ABA therapists might not agree with, but I will say that she did believe in our son and taught our family to defy expectations. Lisa was big on parent training! Parent training is a very important piece to your child's recovery. Make sure you ask for it if you're not getting it. She taught us to push our child a little harder and that it was OK to allow him to cry while we wait for him to request. Then, and only then, could we reward him for his efforts with a positive reinforcer that he enjoys. I believe that extra push she taught us, along with the ground work and efforts of his other home therapists, school therapies, and his special diet, helped Nicholas to bring out his first few words after many months of silence and babbling. We are grateful to her for that.
Lisa and Nick’s music therapist, Jenn Goodman (aka.. Jammin Jenn)(http://www.jamminjenn.com/JJMTC/Welcome.html) both worked really hard along with my husband to get Nicholas to say, "I Love You" again. Jammin' Jenn has done incredible things with Nicholas! She is AMAZING and Nicholas LOVES music and responds to it well. Jenn used The Barney "I Love you, you love me" song as a tool to help teach him "I love you." Lisa used lollipops for positive reinforcers. That "I love you" was the sweetest and most precious gift to receive. Who cares if we had to bribe him with a lollipop? He said it! That moment was much more emotional than what you saw in that scene. To me, it meant there was hope. If he was capable of saying that and all that he had accomplished thus far, I believed he could do so much more. Since then, he continues to surprise and impress us with his accomplishments.
Nick also has a speech and language therapist Mali DeSantis from Therapeutic Services LLC. (http://www.therapeuticservicesllc.com/index.html) who has does amazing things with Nick and helps to organize our household in ways to help Nick speak.
And he takes Gymnastics from Brian’s Team (http://briansteaminfo.com/home/). He enjoys that very much. It helps with his coordination, muscle tone, and to socialize. He is starting swimming lessons very soon as well. He loves the water and has no fear, so I have to make sure he knows how to swim.As far as all the RHONJ drama going on around me at this time, well, like I said, it was right up there on my priority list with bleaching my a--hole! Been there, done that, LOL, and it wasn't a place I wanted to go back to!
To hear more about our Autism journey, and other happenings in our lives, go to www.JacquelineLaurita.com.
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Best wishes to all! XOXO!