The Duncan Banner

April 22, 2011

Silent pain screams loudly

Mom of child with autism hopes to help others

Toni Hopper
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Screaming, running and hitting, but no language uttered from 2-year-old Ellis told Meredith Albin her son was not progressing as he should. She and husband Jay, already had children, so they knew what they were seeing was uncommon - at least to them.

After many doctor visits and attempts to seek treatment, Meredith took charge and began researching on her own. She became consumed with needing to know why her once bright, sunny child was screaming in pain and not able to communicate.

Trips to neurologists in Austin, Texas, and New York, were only the beginning. Special diets were introduced to deal with the gastrointestinal issues Ellis was experiencing. “This child’s been through the ringer. We’ve been told he may never talk,” she said. They were even told he might have to be institutionalized.

Ellis was diagnosed with regressive autism.

But Meredith was determined not to give up on her son.

“Thank goodness I had a medical background,” she said. And the Albins have been more fortunate than many parents who are told their child has autism. As Meredith explained, her husband’s job in the oil/gas industry has allowed her to be a full-time mom to their four children.

“It was frightening. When I went to a doctor, a general practitioner, who was not trained to deal with children who have autism, and not get answers,” she said. “Ellis only regressed in language.”

Eventually, Albin made the trip to the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, but was told it could be a year before he could be seen. For her, it was unacceptable.

“As a mother, you start panicking,” she said.

She said the pain of watching her child get progressively worse was too much. Until she discovered the Thoughtful House in Austin, where they deal with a wide range of children in the autistic spectrum.

Then she discovered a place in the metro region near Edmond. Daily trips to take Ellis up there became the norm for Meredith. But while Ellis was in therapy, she had to find something to fill her six hours of time. It was then she started going to the Edmond Public Library. She already had a bachelor of nursing degree and is an RN, she said.

“I locked myself in a cubicle and spent hours on my laptop,” she said.

And all of it centered around her son and autism.

She began taking online courses through the University of North Texas to seek her master’s degree, she said. She also found an abundance of resources and an Oklahoma autism network of parental support groups. For 2 1/2 years, Meredith traveled with Ellis to Edmond.

Ellis was transitioned into the Duncan Public School system in February, Meredith said.

For Meredith though, she has a goal to help other parents of autistic children, who live right here in Duncan.

“I want to be able to have a business and offer scholarships to others who need help. We’ve had the luxury of resources, but others do not,” she said.

There was also the problem of health insurance. Oklahoma is not one of the 26 states with mandated coverage for children diagnosed with autism. A law being introduced by a state representative could change that. It’s known as Nick’s Law.

“Each child presents autism differently,” Albin said.

And while Ellis is in school, there will always be therapy. He’s like any other child, sometimes feeding off the emotions and surroundings in his world, just as many others. He also is constantly on the go and can dart fast and unlock doors.

“He doesn’t sense fear. But, he’s doing incredibly well. He’s talking in full sentences,” she said. It’s just not all the time like other children. She said one of the successes in dealing with autistic children is early intervention.

“It’s still such a big unknown. But at least autism is being talked about openly,” she said. “Six months into it, after his diagnoses, a typical day meant GI issues, no language and screaming and crying. His energy levels were high. As a parent, you felt, what am I doing wrong. Now I know I didn’t cause any of it.”

Meredith hopes to soon have her credits and be credentialed to offer therapy for other autistic children.

“This therapy is not offered in rural communities. It’s needed,” she said.

April is National Autism Awareness month.