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  • Maureen Westropp

Leap of Faith

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

I read "Underestimated, An Autism Miracle" by J.B. & Jamie Handley in May, 2021. It's a book that can be read in one day, but it took me four or five because I kept sobbing and would have to put it down. Like uncontrollable, couldn't-catch-my breath, snot-dripping, bawling. I couldn't get over how much Jamie sounded like my Max. Their actions, behaviors and experiences totally mirrored each other. It was hard to believe that a young man, very much akin to my son, could co-author a book. But there I was reading it.

Max was 15 at this point and the last few years had been rough to say the least. He has Autism and PANDAS and was in the throes of puberty - a terrible trifecta. Our home environment was in upheaval due to Max's constant frustrations, outbursts (often times violent), self-injurious behaviors, and sleep disturbances. School was no better. The public district where he attended agreed for his outplacement to an autism-specific school. Covid lockdown made everything worse, like it did for everyone. By the Summer of 2020, things had really gone off the rails with Max. We found help through an amazing doctor who understood A&P and worked to find the right balance of medication to curb Max's anxiety. That brought us down to about Defcon 3.

By the following Spring, Max was doing better in his new school, and we had fewer and less intense problems at home. But things were still not good. And I didn't know what else to do to make things better our family, for Max presently, and for his lifetime. I imagined him languishing in this state forever. Frustrated all the time, crying often, screaming at times, not able to communicate and a million other tiny things that added up to a less-than-desirable existence. It broke my heart for him every day. My thoughts raced constantly over what to do for Max and I felt like I was just grasping at straws for solutions.

And then I read the book. Again, it was overwhelming to read, but still unbelievable to take in. The S2C practitioners mentioned in the book were in Virginia and California. There was no way I could get on an airplane with Max. The practitioner in Virginia had a long, long waiting list. We live in Ohio, so the closest certified practitioner was Maria Welch, an SLP in Chicago. I called her and made plans to take Max in the middle of August, 2021, for an evaluation and two days of intensive sessions for the Spelling to Communicate program.

What was I doing? This wasn't going to work. I wasn't even sure if he could handle a five-hour car ride with me. And I was honestly afraid to go alone. Thankfully, Max's amazing one-on-one provider, (and his favorite human) Samantha, agreed to travel with us and attend the sessions.

Max on Road Trip to Chicago

We got him in the car. I still remember hesitating as I looked in the rear view mirror to back out of our driveway. We shouldn't be going - this will certainly end in disaster and likely the three of us being escorted out of the Lincolnshire Marriott for excessive noise and possible property damage. The whole drive west across I-90 I kept telling myself "Don't be disappointed. This isn't going to work. Max won't be able to do this." Almost preparing myself for an inevitable failure. I was his Mother and I was underestimating him so hard.

It was a leap of faith. Somehow I mustered the courage to take it, and we never looked back.

Favorite human Samantha is now a certified S2C practitioner and Max is Spelling in full sentences on his letter board to us. Follow our blog to learn what happened in between!

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Nov 30, 2023

Maureen, where can I find your blog? Also would love to know what doctor was helpful with Pandas as we are also in Ohio :)

Dec 02, 2023
Replying to

Thanks so much :)

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