How one mom found her way after her son’s special needs diagnosis

by Amy Aves Challenger

“Your child’s diagnosis is fairly straightforward,” said Dr. Gabby, our developmental pediatrician, as she handed me a one-page report. It was a chilly gray morning, not long after my first child’s third birthday. The thin paper I held could have been a white cape to wrap around my neck, with a label permanently attached: ADHD (observations of anxiety, sensory processing disorder, maybe PTSD, not yet able to diagnose at such a young age).

I was now officially branded as a special needs parent, ready to blast off into the complicated tornado of treatment plans. I was relieved to have a more clearly defined word to describe our preschooler’s struggle and some explanation for the ungodly stress I’d been experiencing.

I had known for a while that our son was different. He had open-heart surgery as an infant, and afterwards had developed a life threatening arrhythmia treated with toxic medications. We’d spent a lot of time in hospitals. But when he reached 12 months, his heart had healed, and the doctors said he was healthy. I was seven months pregnant with our second boy, and my husband and I were ready to start a “normal” family life.

At 13 months, our boy began walking, and over my pregnant belly, I witnessed an alarming transformation: he became defiant, hyperactive, and highly sensitive around sounds, transitions, and certain environments. Just as my second son arrived, the chaos really began.

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