If you've been with me for any period of time, you know that the OSNS Child Development Centre has been a huge part of my life. My seven year old son Thomas first started attending OSNS when he was three (WHAT?!) for both preschool and Autism Therapy. Today he completed his final session, closing a major chapter in his life.
When Thomas first started there, he could barely walk (his cochlear implant surgery earlier that year reduced his balance significantly), he would not look anyone in the eye and was in his own little world.
I had never spoken publicly about Thomas or his needs up to this point. I had just been in survival mode and couldn't imagine adding another layer to our lives. But once he started at OSNS I felt compelled to open up. This video is the audio of the first time I spoke publicly about Thomas on my then morning radio show:
What strikes me about this video is my voice. You can hear how timid and terrified I am. I was so unsure of our future and Thomas' struggles. It's almost as though I am listening to another woman. Well I kind of am I guess.
Thomas was diagnosed with hearing loss less than 24 hours after he was born. His Autism diagnosis came three years later. That year I decided, "there is only love". I would make every decision with love, do my best to maintain a calm demeanour around him, choose his team with love, advocate with love and more. It helped me every single day, and still does.
The last few years at OSNS have been life-changing. Thomas now rides a bike, runs, interacts with people of all ages, seeks out eye contact, works incredibly hard and has the brightest future. His team has shown impeccable patience, understanding, growth and commitment to his development. I always said if it wasn't for OSNS our family would have moved to find Thomas the best care possible.
There are countless developmental skills most parents take for granted but I still marvel every time Thomas turns when I call his name. When he walks up the stairs without holding on. When he finds something funny. When he listens and waits when I ask him. When he gets dressed. When he uses utensils. The list is endless. Every skill has been molded and taught in hundreds or thousands of hours with his team at OSNS. (Just observing a session exhausts me. I honestly commend them!)
His team has changed over the years but the main members have taught ME so much as well. I am a strong advocate and confident parent thanks to their guidance and patience. I am sure I have asked the same questions dozens of times but I have always been met with understanding and compassion. They've helped me speak up for Thomas, question methods and get truly the best care possible (at OSNS but with other organizations as well).
A year ago I was sobbing in a team meeting, unable to imagine life without pulling into the centre twice a week. But as we ended our chapter there today, I feel immense hope for Thomas' future. He has made incredible gains this year and I know with the momentum cultivated in the last few years, his potential knows no bounds.
I'll leave you with this: the first photo, his first day of OSNS and the second, him leaving today.
"If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart."