I don’t do ‘windows’—so to speak. Ever since my child’s autism diagnosis, I have heard about the ‘window’ and it scared me for him. The window I speak of is the time period between the ages of roughly 1-5 years of age. So I, and many parents, have been told, your child’s greatest possibility of making developmental progress is between those ages. After these ages, it is believed by some that their window of time has been missed, and developmental breakthroughs are less likely.
When my son was diagnosed at 3, I was terrified of all the time I had missed to help him. I felt the intense pressure to try and give him anything and everything I heard of that sounded safe and might help him. This therapy, that diet, this vitamin, that doctor, this class. I often exhausted myself, my finances, and probably him, just trying to get and fit it all in. I was trying to beat the closing of the ‘window’. What I found instead was that after trying all I could, I would discover yet another therapy or diet that I hadn’t heard of, only to begin worrying that I had potentially missed out on something else that could’ve helped him. And round and round I went.
Until the day I decided to stop doing windows. That little voice we all have inside finally got my attention and told me to calm down. It told me to not let the law of averages or a ‘window’ define his life or mine. While I didn’t stop trying to get him the services I felt he truly needed, I did stop making myself crazy anymore, focused on what I really saw working for him, and let life take it’s natural course.
My son is now well past the age of 5, and he continues to progress in communication, social and behavioral skills, awareness, academics, and judgment. And he is not the only one. I personally know and have read about other people on the autism spectrum, over the age of 5 (many in their teens and beyond) that make strides in these same areas and more. I have met and worked with therapists and doctors who have told me similar stories. Recently, I spoke with a friend of mine who is an amazing speech therapist. She has helped many of her clients, well into adulthood, improve their communication, often after others had written them off as unreachable.
I don’t doubt for a moment that the earliest chance you can get treatment for your child, the better. Absolutely. By all means if you can, you must. I just doubt that progress only comes at certain ages. What does that say to the parent whose child is diagnosed after the age of 3 or 4, or the parent who doesn’t have the money to access certain therapies right away? Because that still happens everyday. Should they give up or only expect so much for their child because they’ve passed the window? I say not at all. All children are unique, and we all know human beings have an amazing capacity for change when given the opportunity, the support, and the care. No matter the age. Maybe the changes will come slower than you’d like, maybe they won’t. But don’t stop trying. Often our children will only try as much as they see us trying, or will only try to the degree that we believe in them and inspire them to believe in themselves. Do what you can, give your child support, and seek support for yourself (i.e. parent support groups). With that, where one window closes, another will surely open.
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