Monday, 07 May 2012
Guest Blogger: Shirly Mesa, Speech-Language Pathologist & Mother
What inspires me?
This question may be hard for so many to answer, but for me, it’s pretty simple. It’s Autism. Autism you ask? Well, this complex, mysterious, and intriguing disorder personally came into my life about 7 years ago. I am a speech-language pathologist who has worked with various disabilities and love what I do, but when autism was introduced into my life, my life changed. I always had a background and experience working with some children with autism, but never would I have guessed this would be my expertise and passion.
On December 12, 2002, I was given a gift from God and his name is Arrius. He is my third child and our joy since the minute he was born. I loved being with him every second, watching him play and enjoying every milestone he would complete. Until one day, at the age of 15 months, I noticed something was just not going right. Slight changes started to occur, such as loss of eye contact, aversion to certain foods and textures, and the inability to combine 2 words. I was instantly alarmed and thought to myself that this could not be happening to me. I already dedicated my life to work with children with disabilities, and now I may be facing this not as a therapist, but also as a parent. “Why God?” I constantly asked and waited for an answer that had no immediate response. Yes, my biggest fears were confirmed 6 months later. Arrius has autism.
I was now on the other side of the fence. I was the one listening to all the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plans that were invading my once perfect life. After a period of denial, anger and depression, I decided to face this head on. I mean, I happen to be in the field where I am trained to help individuals become functional, independent, and successful communicators, and I decided to do that with my own son. I was very lucky and blessed to always have myself surrounded by excellent professionals who helped me through the different stages of my son’s progress. As Arrius went through endless hours of occupational, speech, and behavior therapy, I took advantage and completely submerged myself in everything I could learn about autism, not just speech. I became a sponge for the sake of Arrius and learned about biomedical therapy, sensory integration, auditory integration, special diets, and of course providing my own home therapy treatment, which carried over all the goals his other therapists were working on.
Well, I am very proud to say that Arrius has made tremendous improvements and is still making incredible strides to this day. I now know why God introduced Autism into my life. It is so I could learn from my own son. Through him, I was going to be educated, motivated, and pushed harder than anything I have ever encountered in my life. Due to Arrius, I now have the experience of how it feels to have a child with autism and all of its anxieties, worries, and daily challenges we go through. Now, I don’t just treat the child’s speech difficulties, but I can address all of his associated symptoms and guide the parents to different ways they can help their children. I now have a heightened awareness of what a parent may be experiencing and am able to ease their worries through my personal experiences. They say we should pick a profession that we would be willing to do for free. I consider myself lucky that I have chosen a career where I can teach, advise, and make a difference in people’s lives. But the one person that continues to inspire me till this day is my little gift from God, Arrius.