Our story started right after the birth of our first born son, Brody. He was a good baby and developmentally ahead achieving all of his milestones. He rolled, crawled, and walked early. He seemed to catch on to everything much earlier than other babies and adapted well with almost all new things. Since he did everything early, we figured he would be talking at an early age as well. He reached his 2nd birthday and still wasn’t saying much, and this is when I really started to think something was wrong. We were told over and over that he was just a late talker and that he would talk when he was ready, but I just never quite felt good about that. Brody started speech at 2.5, during which the time I had found out I was pregnant with twin boys. Our life was going 100 miles an hour and showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. Brody was in speech and improving with his sessions but was starting to show other behaviors that triggered red flags. When Brody started preschool through our local school district at age 3, he said around five words and even those words were hard to understand. At his first school IEP meeting, we felt absolutely crushed to hear how much difficulty Brody was experiencing. He thrived off routine, visual aides, and was having a hard time transitioning. During this meeting, I brought up the question about the possibility of Autism. The room completely went quiet and that was all I needed to know. It is one of the hardest things to experience when you make the realization that this was not just something in your head but that he was struggling on levels that needed more intervention. Brody was screened at the Thompson Center four months later where he received his diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, only two months shy of his 4th birthday. But since “Day One,” the amount of progress that he has made, is something that is not only hard to explain, but has been so rewarding to watch.
Chase and Peyton are identical twins who were born at 35 weeks and are the next pieces of our story. They did amazing after birth and even avoided the NICU entirely, something uncommon for premature twin babies. They came home with me from the hospital and all was feeling right in the world until everything came shattering down. At 3 weeks old in the middle of the night during a feeding, I was changing Peyton and noticed him let out the faintest cough. This instantly alarmed me because he was so little and he was technically still not even supposed to be born yet. The next morning we saw his doctor and were told to keep a close eye on him throughout the day and take him to the emergency room if he showed anymore signs of distress. Twenty-four hours later we were headed to the emergency room and Peyton was admitted on the spot for respiratory distress. Chase followed the next day and was admitted for the same reasons.
Little did we know, this would be the beginning of Peyton’s fight. His hospital stay lasted a month total including 17 days in the PICU. He was intubated and at one time every major organ in his body was failing. I can honestly say that moment in time was the absolute worst and most horrific time of our life. By the grace of God, we received a miracle and our baby P pulled through the long and agonizing battle. Chase was in the hospital for a week where he required oxygen support, but overall handled the sickness extremely well.
After our hospital stay, Peyton continued to hit bumps in the road with difficulty eating and more hospitalizations due to respiratory struggles. Peyton has had a hard road with his health and a lot of trying times during the way with chronic lung issues, asthma, and immune system concerns.
Even with all of the health concerns presented to us, Autism was always a lingering thought in the back of our heads. We knew that because Brody was diagnosed, the twins had an increased risk for the disorder. We also knew that because the twins were identical, if one of them was diagnosed, it was very likely the other would be diagnosed as well. By 18 months, I started noticing signs of autism in Peyton. Major red flags that were much more obvious than we had even witnessed with Brody. Peyton had many sensory needs. He liked to tap a small, toy carrot on hard surfaces and would do it fast and quick. He would then take his ear to the surface and listen to the sounds he would get in response. This was true for almost all hard surfaces with his toy carrot. He then switched to a spoon and then he started holding his iPad to his ear to listen to all the different sounds he could find. This behavior, along with absolutely no eye contact, no words and complete disinterest in toys and children his own age, was the realization that Autism was a part of Peyton as well.
But then there was Chase who was starting to say words, had an amazing set of play skills with toys, was interested in mocking his older brother and had eye contact that was out of this world. I just knew that Chase was unlike Brody or Peyton, and we would be in the minority and have identical twins, with only one twin on the spectrum.
The day we went to the twins’ evaluations was the day that I found out that I not only had two children with autism but I had three. That was a hard day for me as a mom to make that realization, I couldn’t understand why we were picked for such adversity with all of Peyton’s health issues, and now to have three children diagnosed with Autism, was almost too much to even bear. I went through about three days of just pure sadness where the tears fell like a waterfall.
On the fourth day, I woke up and knew that it was time to take care of business and that a plan was in place and that we were going to do our best to ensure that the boys got every single thing that they needed plus more. When your mindset changes and you accept the hand you have been dealt, everything else has a way of falling into place. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy and that obstacles aren’t going to come into the picture. It means that it will be worth it.
We are the proud parents of 3 perfectly, unique little boys who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and we want to use our story to help others who are going through this journey. We would like to connect with people that “get it” because we have learned it’s important to have a support system in place.