By the time P.J. turned 3, he was still not communicatiing in any way. We tried a little sign language and a PECS chart (Picture Exchange Comunication System). Neither one helped all that much. We felt like we were taking care of a 9 month old that could climb, open, get into and on top of anything he wanted. If he was crying, we had absolutely no idea what he wanted or needed. We had to use the "list" you use for an infant; Is he in pain, is he tired, wet, messy, hungry, hot, cold, frustrated,... We sometimes cried with him because we just couldn't figure it out. There was one hospital trip because the crying was so bad, so long, and nothing was working that we surely thought he was hemorrhaging or something. It ended up he was severely constipated. One enema and 20 minutes is all it took to cure that problem. Thank goodness it wasn't anything else!

P.J. was getting big and still not understanding safety issues. The baby gates were no longer working. He would climb over them faster than we could get to him. We had to come up with a better solution. The only thing we came up with was: doors. We would have to replace all of the gates with doors (and a few walls). There was much remodeling to do. We did a lot of it ourselves, but we did have to hire a few people for the bigger jobs.

We started closing and locking the spare bedroom door. We built a 3/4 wall and door to cover the office and laundry room.

As for the wooden box with bricks, we removed it and made a nicer facade wall with a door to replace the gate to the kitchen.

This was one of the jobs we had to hire out. It was a bit more than we could do ourselves. A friend of ours built out the walls and installed these doors for us. He did such a good job you can't tell they weren't always there!

This was a dining room. We used it for a playroom and then converted it into P.J.'s bedroom. We had the 3/4 wall and door installed so we could have a place where we knew P.J. would be safe. (this was also hired out)
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these pictures to see the before and after images.

P.J. was evaluated on several levels and ended up qualifying for the FDLRS (Florida Diagnostic Learning Resource System), a program through the public school system. He started in the Pre-K autistic unit one week after he turned three. He was so tiny compared to the other students, but he never realized how small he was. The ratio of teachers to students was 3:6. What great numbers! The teachers were wonderful, helpful, and supportive. He went to school 5 days a week, 8 to 2:50, just like the typical kids. He also rode on a public school bus! He had his own aide that walked him to his classroom and then back to the bus after school. In the public school he continued speech & language therapy, and occupational thearapy.

At this point things were going O.K. not great, but O.K. Our biggest problem with P.J. was he just didn't have a CLUE about safety. Inside the house we had things pretty well covered. But on the outside...given any chance, he would run away; out of the house, into a parking lot, into the street, or even traffic! He had to be strapped in a stroller or you had to have a DEATH grip on his hand, and he did not like holding hands. At one point we tried one of those harnesses that go on like a back pack with a leash. When we put that on him, he just dropped to the ground and wouldn't move. Parks were a nightmare unless they were fenced in. Mall play areas were not all that great either. He could climb over the walls lickety-split! Not to mention the well meaning kids/adults that would hold the gate open for him to get out. Each time we headed out we made sure we had on comfortable shoes because we knew that at some point we would be chasing after an escaped P.J.

We had to put a 3/4 door in the middle of a hallway just to keep P.J. out of a bathroom and two other bedrooms!
We had been reading about ABA therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis) and we decided to give it a go. We had 2 sessions. The first session, I was unable to stay. The second session I did stay to observe, and I felt like the worst mother in the world! I can't even begin to explain what had happened, but it wasn't for us. I felt P.J. wasn't ready for that type of therapy. It was intense, he cried a lot, and it just seemed cruel because he did not understand what the therapist wanted. She would turn on a favorite movie, P.J. would stand up to dance, then she turned the movie off. She wanted P.J. to sit back down but instead he started to cry and threw himself on the floor. She waited more than 1/2 an hour with him crying louder and louder. I felt that was just too long, so I left with P.J. He was not at all himself the rest of the night. The next day the director called to make sure we were o.k. and to see if I wanted to give it another try. My reply was "Thanks, but no thanks"