After son’s autism diagnosis, mom finds new focus and lots of support
More specifically, he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS — Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.
At first, the diagnosis was a shock. I’m a single mom, and initially I didn’t know what to do, how to approach it, or who I could talk to.
Jacob’s diagnosis didn’t make me think of him differently. I just wanted to understand what it all meant for him. Would he be able to go to a regular school? Would I be able to get help for him at a reasonable cost? Were there any facilities or services in Hawaii that could help him?
Fortunately, I have a great support system in my family, friends and the community.
After taking some time to better understand autism, I was able to focus and seek services for my son.
I knew something was wrong with Jacob when he was about 1. He would not respond when we called his name. On average, a child will respond to his or her name at around 7 months old, give or take a month or 2.
However, Jacob did advance in other ways at an early age. For example, Jacob started walking at only 10 months; he would teach himself how to open doors or get to what he wanted.
At 2, I took Jacob in for his regular wellness appointments and voiced my concerns about Jacob’s development.
Jacob’s pediatrician referred us to the Hawaii Keiki Information Service System, a state Department of Health early intervention program that provides support and developmental services to children under 3.
Early intervention is federally-mandated, and services includes assistance with communication, cognitive, physical, social or emotional or adaptive skills.
After H-KISS determined Jacob was eligible for services, we got a care coordinator and learned all his services would be free.
The care coordinator was able to answer our questions and scheduled evaluations for Jacob, which were all conducted in our home.
Jacob was seen by a speech therapist, occupational therapist, teacher, skills trainer, behavioral specialists, and a child psychologist, all in the space of a week. I know this sounds like it would be overwhelming for a child, but the visits were spaced out and H-KISS accommodated our schedule.
After all the evaluations and testing, Jacob was diagnosed. I then worked with H-KISS to tailor services for him.
Since Jacob first started getting early intervention services at 2, his social, speech and emotional skills have improved greatly.
And this fall, he’ll be starting kindergarten.
Janelle Hirata was born and raised in Kahuku. Growing up, her family owned a farm and her upbringing made her somewhat of an outdoor adventurer. She enjoys living a healthy, active lifestyle. Being a single mother, Janelle also finds support in her family and friends. She uses this quote from Buddha to to remind herself that there is always time to do what makes you feel good: “You, yourself, as much as anyone else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”