Christian Louis MirandaOn January 11th, 2005, we welcomed into the world our beautiful son, Christian Louis Miranda. We always knew that Christian was a special little boy. Little did we know just how special he would turn out to be. Born a healthy, full-term, perfectly normal baby, Christian flew through all of his early milestones. Smiling, laughing, crawling, and walking were a breeze for Chris. It was when that golden age of talking came that we began to notice the signs. The lining up of the toys. The hand flapping and walking on his toes. The rocking back and forth that we first thought was him just dancing funny. As much as we tried to deny the obvious, we knew deep down that Christian had something different about him.
Living in Florida at the time made it very difficult to find an answer. We spoke with the doctors. We did research online. We waited a long year-and-a-half until those dreadful words were finally uttered on that fateful day in November 2007: "Christian has Autism." Our world came crashing down. How do we help him? What next? It was difficult finding the best help for Chris in Florida. We were lucky enough to find a fairly decent school near our home at the time that provided the beginning steps for pulling Christian out of the world that Autism had put him into. But it just wasn't enough. He would regress over short breaks from school. He began to exhibit aggressive behaviors, such as punching himself in the head and face, and pushing the children around him for coming into his personal space. It became painfully evident to us that he needed much more than they were able to provide in his current school environment.
We were originally from Long Island, New York. In October 2008, we flew to New York to participate in the "Walk Now for Autism." A good friend of ours organized a team in Christian's name called "Christian's Hope." It was at that walk that our eyes were opened to the wonderful services that New York had to offer for children with autism. We spoke to many families like ourselves, and they all encouraged us to look into moving back to Long Island. The costs would be high, but the help would be priceless. We went home after that trip and started the hectic process of uprooting our little family. We needed a place, we needed a source of income, and most of all, we needed help. Through the support of our loving family and friends, we made it back to Long Island. From day one, we knew this was the greatest decision we could have made for Christian. Just the basic schooling was more than we could have ever dreamed of in Florida. An ABA program? They had those here at no cost to us? Health insurance that covered the basic tests needed to dig more into Chris's health needs? Amazing!
It was after being here a short time that we found the number for Dr. Michael Gruttadauria, or just Dr. Mike as we all call him, in the back of a book. There were many doctors to choose from around our area, but we went with our gut feeling and called Dr. Mike's office. He told us that consults were free (unbelievable for us to hear - in Florida that was $500)! He wanted and knew how to help Christian. There were tests and vitamins and foods that could make our precious little boy feel better. There was the SenEX, a sensory training program that would "exercise" his brain. He could bring him out of that bubble that he has been in for nearly 5 years. The thought alone brought us to tears.
Ever since Dr. Mike has been seeing and helping Christian, since about February 2009, he has improved more than we could have ever imagined. Before, he wouldn't look you in the eye, and would get very upset if you got "into his space." Getting a hug was out of the question! Now, we all get hugs, or as Chris calls it, a "squeeze," all the time. He says quite a few words here and there, and even calls us Mom and DaDa. To hear that is an amazing feeling! His eye contact and his ability to listen and do simple things like throwing something into the garbage have shown great improvement. He now loves to paint, color, and play matching games with cards. The list is so long. We can bring him places without worrying about him crying or sounds bothering him (he used to cry and cover his ears when there was a lot of noise around him). He went to his first big carnival not long ago, and even rode a pony and went on a kiddie ride with his daddy. We strongly believe that he would not be where he is right now without the help and therapy he is getting here in New York. Knowing that we can no longer afford it, breaks our hearts.
We were blessed that Chris was chosen to receive a grant that would help to pay for the beginning months of his therapy with Dr. Mike. That alone brought so much hope to us. But there are still all the other expenses. The foods that Chris must eat now due to his recently discovered allergies are astronomical. The daily regimen of vitamins are costly as well. We know that somehow and someway we will do our best to make sure that Christian can continue to receive all of the wonderful help that he has been getting since we came back to New York. It will continue to be a struggle, but our Christian is worth it. We are hopeful that by the grace of God and the generosity of our family, friends, and people like Dr. Mike, that Christian will continue to get the help that he so desperately needs.
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