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Braeden had autism.  He also had PDD-NOS, hyperactivity, sensory “issues”, “severe cognitive deficits”, and Asperger’s Syndrome.  He couldn’t talk because we didn’t read to him enough, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he had behavioral problems triggered by poor parenting.  With all these diagnoses came prescriptions, usually involving extensive testing.   At one point, a passerby offered an all-encompassing solution:  “you oughta drown that kid, lady.”  Oddly, that incredible rudeness was preferable to the pitying tsk-tsking that many offered both in front of us and behind our backs.

Yet none of these diagnoses explained why Braeden began talking normally, stopped at age one, didn’t begin babbling again until age 2 ½, and wasn’t understandable to outsiders until age 5 ½.  How could a retarded preschooler understand negative numbers?  How could a child who lovingly put first aid cream on his dog’s calluses lack the empathy and social connection of an autistic child?  How could it be that he wasn’t talking because I didn’t read to him enough, when our home resembled a lending library?

 

A friend found the book Late-Talking Children, which in turn led us to Dr. Camarata, from whom we learned that Braeden had a mixed expressive-receptive language disorder.  That diagnosis changed our lives changed forever, because we could finally forge a path forward, despite lingering worries that every behavior might be a symptom of something dire.    

 

During those dark years before Braeden began to speak fluently, our anchor was the group of other parents of late talkers with whom Dr. Camarata had connected us.  I dared to believe, based on their stories, that maybe Braeden would improve.  Suggestions from Dr. and Mrs. Camarata on how to help our son also gave us hope, because their techniques actually worked.

 

Our boy is now 14.  He is potty trained (something that when he was four I was SURE would never happen).  He still adores mathematics, though his memory is not as frighteningly accurate as it once was.  He remains kind-hearted when it comes to animals and wounded people.  He is a competitive athlete and has solid friendships. 

 

To my dismay, Braeden still shows signs of his language problems—his vocabulary has odd errors and gaps, and he dislikes writing enough that I’ve given up hope that one day he’ll compose the Great American Novel.  He is, however, within the bounds of whatever it is that normal might be.  Most important, Braeden—who paved the way for his younger late-talking brother—is growing into a young man whom I like very much and am proud to have as my son.  On every level, he is just fine.

 

Tamera S.

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