Six years ago I was staring at a lost boy.
No, not The Lost Boys. Though I do remember a time I was staring at them.
MY boy, Zion, was lost…inside of himself. The autism arrived early in his second year of life, and sent him into regression. He didn’t talk. He would throw tantrums when he needed things because he couldn’t communicate.
I could see him in there. And I knew there was a way to usher him out. Then we discovered ABA therapy.
And hence, discovered this sweet, funny and beautiful boy.
Now, truth be told, it has been pricey. We have made sacrifices. And there are days when I sit down to pay bills and start ripping my hair out by the handful, asking myself IS THIS REALLY WORTH IT??
Then days like Thursday happen.
We had started out on our long commute north, when Zion put his hand on my arm and said, “I go see Abby morning?”
I replied, “Ask me the right way, please.”
Zion pondered for a second and said, “Who is my therapist this morning?”
I smiled. “Abby,” I replied.
Zion thought for a few more minutes and asked, “Who is taking me home today?”
I replied, “Good job, Zion. Courtney is taking you home today.”
He squealed and said, “Good job, Zion! Mama take me out to breakfast?”
That made me laugh out loud. I said, “No buddy, you already ate breakfast.”
He was quiet for a moment. And then he said, “All done breakfast.”
I reached over and took his hand and said, “Who is my favorite boy?”
He replied, “Zion!”
Then just to see what he would say, I asked, “Who is your favorite mama?”
And without even hesitating he said “Angela.”
What the what?
I had to pull the car over to squeeze my kid.
Just six months ago, every question I asked Zion received a yes or no answer, even if it wasn’t a yes or no question.
ME: Zion, what do you want for dinner?
ME: Zion, where are your shoes?
Seriously. It was enough to give even the most patient person a tick.
Then Abby came into our lives. Abby is currently Zion’s morning ABA therapist, and Zion worships the ground she walks on. They clicked immediately. She reaches him through being active with him, because that is something he loves. She has utilized his love of running and jumping and being thrown into a ball pit, to teach him to speak in sentences.
He has to respond correctly to earn the active time.
Brilliant. Money well spent.
This month we celebrate six years of ABA therapy.
Is it expensive? Is it inconvenient? Do I love driving over 25,000 miles a year?
Yes, yes and nooooooooooo.
But is it worth it?
My goodness. I could never begin to calculate the worth.
But let’s try.
ABA therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis) is used to teach children with autism. It is the same type of therapy used to train dolphins.
Zion has his own therapist, all day every day.
That’s 1 on 1 interaction.
Yet insurance companies are paying less and less for these therapies. And making it near impossible for families of children with autism to survive.
As a matter of fact, I just received a notice yesterday that Zion’s current secondary insurance policy is being cancelled at the end of this year.
Looking back at the amounts that have been billed to my laundry list of insurance companies, the total amount billed to these companies over a six-year period is OVER A MILLION DOLLARS.
Wrap your brain around that.
One. Million. Dollars.
It’s no wonder insurance companies are choosing to bail. And it’s also apparent why so many families choose to keep their child in a special education setting, no matter how inappropriate it may be for the child’s well being.
I propose a bailout. A bailout for families of children with any special needs. Instead of a bailout for banks and corporations and other rich pricks, let’s lighten the load for families everywhere who are being buried in debt to help their kids.
Just a thought.
Every day I hand over one of the two most precious people in my life to ABA therapists for 8 hours. I don’t always know what they do. But I do see the growth they are creating.
Zion is both literally and figuratively my million dollar baby.
And he’s worth it.