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“With VHAP and our team supervisor we have found a clear path to look for ways to overcome his hurdles”

Raising a child is sometimes a rewarding, yet often times difficult experience. When your child is diagnosed as Autistic, difficult becomes terrifying and heartbreaking. You are given a diagnosis that feels as grim and hopeless as one could possibly feel. With no support given, it is up to the parents to find out exactly what needs to be done and where they should go for help. Nowadays, nearly everyone has a connection to autism, so it is sometimes useful to take advice from a friend dealing with the same rock and hard place.

Our son is a challenge. Mostly, he is a challenge for different reasons than one would expect. My child is kind, loving, caring and incredibly intelligent. The irony is that for someone who couldn’t talk, he just doesn’t want to stop talking now. It is a blessing and a curse. And thankfully, we do have an incredible team on our side.

With VHAP and our team supervisor, Jackie Zaldua, we have found a clear path to look for ways to overcome his hurdles. Whether it be his repetitive nature, or his need to talk during class at school, as much of a kind and beautiful soul he has, many teachers simply see him as disruptive. Thankfully, Jackie and our team were able to lead him through this very rough time.

School issues aside, there is also a matter of the home and where he comes from. Sometimes it feels as though the parent is on trial, as if the term “refrigerator mother” is still alive and well. When Jackie has come into our home and seen things that she doesn’t agree with or feels that there is a better way to handle a certain situation, she approaches her ideas respectfully and with tact. This is especially palatable when you are near depression and self loathing because you are not the provider that society finds acceptable. I’ve never been one to care what other people think, but there is much at stake when it comes to your child. Any self-respecting parent wants the best for their child, and when autism becomes part of your daily language, the challenge is greater but so are the accomplishments.

And yes, I mention the accomplishments, because life isn’t always drowning in the deep blue sea with no land in sight. In fact, it is completely opposite of that. The love and joy that he has brought me and my wife has simply made us better people, that is, I am utterly grateful as to what my child has taught me. His view of the world has restored some of my innocence lost. We recently shared watching a movie together about something dear to my heart. This subject – Pearl Jam and their music – has also brought joy and excitement to him as well. It was like watching STAR WARS for the first time with your child. It was beauty and it was perfect.

This joy I speak of is also celebrated by Jackie and her wise and thoughtful approach. Besides the difficulty of making sure your child has the best parents he possibly can, it can be emotionally taxing letting somebody who barely knows the child yet still demand you do things a certain way. Both my wife and I love our child more than anything we could ever imagine. While we may not be perfect people, we strive to offer our child a happy life. Thanks to VHAP and the strength of Jackie Zaldua, we continue to make and reach goals for him as he comes closer and closer to being an adult. It is scary for a child of innocence to face a world that has long since abandoned innocence and beauty. Yet it is still there, and sometimes it is children like our child that make a handful of grown-ups realize it. Jackie still has that as do each and every one of the therapists working with him under VHAP.

~Father of an 11 year old boy in North Hollywood