April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day
One in 88 Canadian children, including one in 54 boys, has an autism spectrum disorder. Catalina’s parents recount how their daughter was diagnosed and treated through the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC).
Catalina Edith (Cathy) was born in May 2008 with serious troubles and spent her first days in the intensive care unit, but recovered well. She seemed to be doing fine until around the age of nine months when she started rejecting solid food. Progressively her communication skills started to regress and by the age of 17 months, she became silent. Our journey with autism started. As time passed we learnt that Cathy displayed many other features of autism. A specialized teacher who saw her at 20 months of age.
On July 2010 Catalina started the play and learn group at Mothercraft’s site -a not-for-profit agency offering a wide range of services to Ottawa families- and by October 2010 she got into the Getting Started Services clinic – an OCTC clinic where parents are shown and taught how to work with their children while they are awaiting an assessment and diagnosis.
Cathy also started having home visits with a therapist and then joined a social play group. Finally on January 2011, she was officially diagnosed. She received occupational and speech therapy at OCTC until we moved out of the province in August 2011.
The “Getting Started” team really made a positive difference on her life. In addition, as parents we felt supported and empowered by the training and strategies they gave to us. The holistic approach of the intervention helped improve her development in crucial areas such as speech, sensory integration, behaviour and eating habits. Just a few weeks after the first consultation with the Getting Started occupational therapist, Cathy sat at the table and ate solid food for the first time after more than a year. She said her very first word at 32 months, even before the autism diagnosis was formally made. The Getting Started clinic’s intervention helped us understand her condition, better interact with her and support her. It wasn’t just “doing something in the meantime,” but was real intervention with very positive outcomes. As parents we felt strengthened, supported and trained, which improved our way of dealing with her condition and reduced our stress levels.
We can see the difference OCTC made for Cathy just by watching her among her peers at the specialized nursery school she attends in our new province, where there are no services such as those offered by OCTC. They have the same diagnosis and age as Cathy, but she is way ahead in many areas of development. Moreover, Cathy is receiving therapy in a private centre here and her therapists are amazed by the way she responds to the treatment. She reaches almost all the goals a lot faster than her peers. There is only one explanation possible: she received the best quality intervention at OCTC -she was diagnosed at an early age; her intervention started at an early age; as parents we were trained to support her. This gives us hope for a future school integration and independent life for her as an adult.
Thanks to all who gave us hope for our little Catalina!For more information, please contact:
Director of Client Programs & Information
Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre
2211 Thurston Drive
(613) 688-2126 x 4344