It takes a Village
Through the years of raising three children, I’ve often heard the cliché “it takes a village.” The meaning and power behind these words never resonated so true to me until this past week, when my youngest child Lenny, my child with autism, walked across his high school stage to receive his diploma and now he prepares for his freshman year of college. Yes! College! The impossible has become possible, and boy did it take a village.
Looking back, I see that my village began building one person at a time, one agency at a time, one parent at a time as early as Lenny’s toddler years. I noticed things before the age of one and knew something was “off” about my son. The pediatrician kept reassuring me that all was ok. I knew different and reached out to a pediatric audiologist who referred us to Childlink, an agency that works with children birth to 3. Childlink sent a team to our home for assessments and evaluations and we quickly learned he had a sensory processing disorder, and his therapies began. I made an appointment with a developmental pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The wait list was 26 months. My mind raced. I added 26 months to my sons age. What were we going to do in the meantime? We continued to build upon our village. We continued with in-home-therapy and therapist after therapist came into our home. Lenny began at an early intervention classroom at KenCrest. Suddenly, our village was growing tenfold. More and more people were being added. I met a social worker who told us to talk to other parents and try everything, and everything we did! She told us to live in the moment and work towards “todays” goals and not to worry about the future, for we never know what the future holds. This was the best advice I ever received, and the best advice I could ever pass along to another parent. I began living in the moment with my son. We began celebrating every day. We began working with him on small goals and building upon each one day after day, week after week, all with our vast village by our side cheering him and my family on through the process.
The other day, as my family and I stood in the packed auditorium with hundreds of other families, waiting for our graduates to cross the stage, I looked around. I saw so many familiar faces that helped us through the process. My mind went back to the early days when Lenny was non-verbal and now he’s crossing the stage with 340 other students graduating from the class of 2017. I thought about the process that got us here and all of the people we met along the way. I also thought about all of the work on Lenny’s part. Through his own perseverance and determination, Lenny has played a large role in where he is and where he is headed. “Proud of him” is much too simple of a phrase to explain our feelings towards Lenny’s accomplishments. “Grateful” is also much too simple of a phrase to describe my feelings towards our village. Lenny was our inspiration for opening We Rock the Spectrum. I witness parents come in and grow their village before my eyes, meeting new parents and friends, and getting the support they need. I hope We Rock can be a part of your village as well.