Here it is – the truth.

I’m just a mom who always wanted what was best for my children but did not know what that was or how to get it. I am just a mom who has struggled, fought, cried, given up, and argued while trying to help my sons.  I have felt helpless and hopeless so many times throughout their lives, but always managed to keep a smile on my face.

I was just a mom when I was told that my son was speech delayed and had low muscle tone. I believed what I was told. I had no idea that it was not true. It was not the whole truth. It was not the real truth. The truth was that my son had autism. The truth is that my son has autism. I was a mom, now with a diagnosis for my son, and had no idea what to do with it.

If I had known then, what I know now, I would have done so much differently.

I am still a mom. My son still has autism. I can’t change the past but I definitely can affect the future.  A few years ago I was asked how I wanted to be remembered in my life and, without hesitation, I answered that I wanted to be remembered for helping children with special needs. Little did I know that I would move forward in that direction so quickly.  But, years later, I am actually reaching out, taking steps, and constantly striving to help parents and children like mine. That is, was and always will be the primary purpose of My Favorite Therapists, the company that my husband and I created.

I am a lawyer by trade. My husband is a businessman. We are not therapists, psychologists or doctors and we do not pretend to be. We are parents with experience and knowledge of what it is like to try to help our child when we know something is wrong and don’t know exactly what it is, what to do or where to go.

There are so many labels and abbreviations these days…visual processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, developmental delays, ADD, ADHD, aspergers, autism, cerebral palsy, OCD, ODD, and more.  Understanding that there is an issue is just a tiny step for parents like us.  Accepting that we alone are not equipped to “fix the problem” is a little bit harder. Navigating the path of finding a therapist, a school, a mentor, a trustworthy resource and other help often seems nearly impossible, both practically and financially.

There is so much out there on the world wide web that it can be overwhelming.

So, what is my advice to my fellow parents?

Go with your gut.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When it comes to therapists, friends, schools, etc…listen to that voice inside of you, pay attention to the reactions and behavior of your child and consider all of your options. Most of the time, we are not locked in. We stay because of convenience and fear of the unknown.

Have a plan.

It doesn’t have to be detailed or specific, but try to set out some goals for the things that you want to accomplish short term (within a month) and long term (over a year). Write it down. Take notes and strive to get it done.

Ask questions.

Ask lots of questions. Search for the answers. Research, research, research.

Chose the right academic path for your child

Making sure that the school of your choice is doing anything and everything possible for your child, following the IEP (if there is one), and providing the support that your child needs. If not, make sure that the school will allow you to provide all that your child needs. Consider the pros and cons of all of the different options available to you and your child and find the place, schedule, and situation that best fits your child’s needs.

Look for grants

Look for all of the grants, scholarships, charities, and fundraising opportunities available to you and your child. They are out there.

Understand that you are the CEO of your child’s success.

You have to build a team that works together, shares a vision, and communicates with one another to help your child to succeed. If anyone slacks off or veers off in another direction, replace them!

What would I have done differently?

I would have sought the diagnosis earlier. Our son had so many signs of autism and yet went undiagnosed. I would have searched for the insurance plan that provided the most coverage for our son as he is the most expensive cost of services.

I would have focused on core skills and necessities when he was younger, rather than sending him to preschool for the “social” interaction. I would have inundated him with therapists, good therapists, therapists who had his and our family’s best interests at heart and who were experienced and knowledgeable in their area. I would not have accepted mediocrity in any aspect of his childhood. I would have used the computer and the Ipad as motivators to reinforce his behaviors and limited his time on electronics.

We may not have done everything right for our son, but we did not and will not give up on him.  Our son is now 13 years old.  He is the inspiration and driving force behind My Favorite Therapists.  He has so much potential and opportunity to continue to grow, to learn new skills and to succeed in life.  Like us,  you are the only one who knows what it is like to walk in your shoes.  You are the only one who truly knows what it is like to live with your child, to wish for your child and to fight for your child.  You are your child’s greatest advocate and best chance at success. Find that inner strength and do all that you can to make it happen.

Kimmy Katari, mom to 4 amazing boys