I’m Thankful for My Niece

My husband and I are parents to an amazing, energetic, mischievous, almost three year old boy, Logan.

We started to notice speech regression around 20 months, and I brought it up to his pediatrician at our next routine visit. I remember her saying that speech regression is related to autism, but she didn’t really see any other “red flags” that alarmed her.

She referred us to Early Steps to see if he would qualify for speech therapy, and then we would see if he started to make any progress and take it from there.

I immediately went home and “googled” characteristics of autism in a 20 month old, took the M-CHAT, and watched several videos of what a “typical” toddler should look like at that age.

I kept thinking that this didn’t look like or sound like my son. But sure enough, 6 months later, the toddler in those videos was my son.

Our life has been a roller coaster ever since his diagnosis, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support from our friends and family.

The person I am most thankful for is my 8 year old niece, Madison. She is the most outstanding little girl I know.

When we found out Logan was diagnosed with autism, I was in shock because of the interactions I’ve witnessed with these two. How can a child with autism be this social?

His face would light up whenever she walked through the door.  I honestly think he is more excited to see her on most days than he is to see me.

One day she came with me to pick him up from daycare. I am almost always greeted with a hug and smile, but not that day. He saw her immediately and smiled, grabbed her hand, and guided her out the classroom to my car.

Although Madison doesn’t quite understand his diagnosis yet, she knows Logan is a little different than other kids his age due to his lack of speech. But, to be honest, it doesn’t change anything about how she treats and loves on him.

She is an Observer

Madison watches everything I do! She’ll observe me using all of the ABA or prompting strategies with Logan, and the next thing you know— she’s doing the exact same thing. She’s his little peer buddy and doesn’t even know it.

One day she was at our house eating some Pringles. Logan immediately heard her munching on the chips and ran over to get some. You would expect an 8 year old to just give him some chips so he would leave her alone right? Ha! Not in Madison’s world.

She makes him work for whatever he gets, just like I do. She asked Logan, “Do you want to eat?” while signing ‘eat’.

He immediately responded ‘“eat.” She gave him A PIECE of a chip. Then she grabbed his iPad from the living room and opened his LAMP (Language Acquisition through Motor Planning) app in preparation of what he was going to do next. As expected, he approached her again wanting more chips. Using LAMP, she modeled how to request “more” and sure enough, Logan immediately responded “more” over and over again.

She is Kind

Madison almost always puts Logan’s needs before her own.  She knows all of Logan’s interests, which include movies, toys, songs, and social games. If Madison is playing on her iPad and Logan comes around, she will pull up one of his favorite YouTube clips just to make him happy— even though she’s seen them a hundred times.

She will play hide and seek for hours with him, even though she’s the one to hide each time. You would think an 8 year old would get tired of always giving into a 2 year old, but not Madison.

She is an Educator

Madison believes that Logan will eventually learn how to communicate using his words. She plays school with him, while teaching him the letters of the alphabet. She will pause his videos to have him imitate certain sounds, words, or movements.

She even told me one day that she couldn’t wait until he was old enough to attend her school, so that he could learn how to speak Spanish. Her thought was that it may be easier for him to learn Spanish, than it is for him to learn English. She’s always looking out for his best interest, and she truly wants to help him be successful.

I firmly believe that when Madison grows up, she will work in the field of education and be one of those rare teachers, who will go above and beyond for her students.

Their relationship continues to grow every day, and I am so thankful for that. I’m not sure how different Logan’s development of social skills would be if she wasn’t around him as much as she is.

I am so incredibly blessed that Madison is able to play such a huge role in Logan’s life. She is his cousin, mentor, idol, role model, and most importantly, best friend.

Written by, Melinda Luna

I have always had a passion for working with individuals with disabilities. I was a special education teacher for 3 years, and now I work for a project that supports teachers that have students with ASD and related disabilities. I am beyond thankful that I have the knowledge and resources to help my son be successful throughout his life.

(Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Melinda Luna and is part of Cooper’s, ‘I’m Thankful For You’ Campaign.)

You can still nominate the doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and family that make a difference in your special needs world. Click HERE to learn how!

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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