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
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)
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
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"