"I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom," Sandra Lobinowich says. But things changed for Sandra and her husband Mark when concerns about their first son sent them to the doctor for advice. Noah began to concentrate a bit too much on small things and showed evidence of withdrawal and a speech delay. When they received his diagnosis of autism in 2008 and were referred to ErinoakKids, their plans for the future began to change with some uncertainty.
"We did some research to find out what ErinoakKids was, and to find out more about the diagnosis," Sandra recalls. Noah's parents were aware of the term "autism," but they never expected to face it head on. The news that Noah would have to go on a waiting list for speech and language therapy as well as for Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for his autism was surprising. Soon after, Sandra had made the decision to stay at home to be the constant presence in his life.
Sandra and Mark faced the upheaval that can be felt by parents whose future goals, aspirations and dreams for their children and themselves begin to change. Both parents say they felt alone and isolated. "We felt like we were the only ones," Mark says.
"The wait list for speech and language was over a year," adds Sandra, and she knew there was a similar waiting list for IBI. Then "We got a phone call from ErinoakKids and were told about The Learning Journey, the service offered for parents on the IBI waiting list (Note: The Learning Journey is now available to all parents of children with ASD). We took that course, and the coaching courses, where we worked in a small group and learned about how to help our child at home," Sandra recalls.
Noah got into speech therapy first. Sandra remembers, "He got his four blocks [units of therapy] of that, then in January 2011 he just came off the wait list for IBI and began his therapy at home with an instructional therapist seeing him here."
To Noah's parents, their experiences over the years with ErinoakKids are defined by the therapists they've come to know closely. Those who came to their home, those they met at ErinoakKids, and those who phoned with help – all came from separate professional disciplines; all concentrated on one thing, Sandra noticed, "We could see that they were focused at all times on Noah – on the child, not just a case."
Mark and Sandra, through their continuing journey with ErinoakKids, have learned as much about themselves as about their children. Mark says, "It's isolating at first. I'd give him attention and wouldn't get anything back. But it's different now because I know there's more going on inside. He wants to hug and kiss, but it's inside him. I can see that."
They can also see more of the inner person coming out as Noah makes steady progress in his IBI therapy. He learns new things quickly and reaches out more. All three of their sons are happy little guys because of the quality parenting and loving family environment, where the things Mark and Sandra learn through their contact with ErinoakKids are effectively put into practice.
The Lobinowich home is adapted around a child with special needs. A big-screen TV displays fascinating images of Saturday morning cartoons – but a barrier around the set keeps little hands at a safe distance.
The parent's lives are organized the same way. Sandra notes, "It's hard to go out. You can't just pick up the phone and get someone to sit with them for an evening." Both Mark and Sandra admit that many friends they had from before Noah's diagnosis are less accessible now. They react to this in a philosophical manner and practise patience - it's often the best road forward supported by the extended "family" they gained at ErinoakKids.
The concern they felt when they first faced Noah's diagnosis is blunted now, "We see the future as very bright now," says Mark. He adds, "I think Noah can do anything."
Learn more about Autism Services at ErinoakkIds:
Last Modified: 2/28/2013 9:48:51 AM