Mother shares glimpses of family living with autism

Ann Cousineau

Mother shares glimpses of family living with autismRaising an autistic child is far from easy, but it’s been a way of life for Cherish and Patrick Rindt in their family’s Ridgecrest home. It’s a story about love, hope, stress and constantly researching therapies to ensure a rich quality of life.

The challenges the Rindts have faced, the heartstrings that have been stretched in the last eight years and the research trails they’ve covered are beyond the average parent’s imagination. They are also now becoming part of a story that the Rindts are sharing with others.

Studying autism and how to help her son began for Cherish eight years ago, soon after the addition of Patrick Rindt Jr. to the Rindt family.

When Patrick was born, his older sister was 14 months old. His younger sister was bornBy LINDA SAHOLT, News Review Correspondent

about two-and-a-half years later.

Cherish’s search for knowledge of how to care for her son started when Patrick was only 6 months old. He was a little boy with very low strength, and his movements had not gone past what would be expected of a newborn infant.

The Rindts talked to their pediatrician, Dr. Vickie Schauf, who connected the family with the Kern Regional Center and a neurologist at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

“The neurologist diagnosed Patrick with a ‘failure to thrive.’ That basically meant that he was not developing. And that was difficult for us. We were told to prepare ourselves that he might not make it to his second birthday,” said Cherish.

At the time, Patrick was 6 months old. He had low muscle tone and low strength. His ligaments were so loose that it was a struggle to hold his joints in place. So the family began a treatment plan of physical and occupational therapy five times a week. Within six months, that therapy had helped Patrick build enough strength to raise his head and sit up on his own.

“Right before his second birthday, the neurologist discharged us from his clinic and told us that even though therapy would be a part of Patrick’s and our family’s lives, he was going to make it,” said Cherish.

“I knew he had been getting stronger, but I had never let myself even hold any sort of expectation. I just knew that we were going to love him for as long as we had him. And we did everything we could to give him a chance.”

When he was 2 years old, in addition to his other therapy he began speech therapy three times a week.

Those therapies were so strenuous it was sometimes difficult to continue. But that routine improved Patrick’s core strength. “After almost a year and a half of therapy, he had the motor skills and strength to take his first steps on his own,” Cherish recalled.

When Patrick was 3, he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental delay-not otherwise specified). That was after at least two years of physical and occupational therapy.

Patrick was 6 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. “It is very common for kids to get a PDD diagnosis, then have that additional autism diagnosis around the time they reach school age. So this was not a big surprise for us,” said Cherish.

“To parents who are dealing with this, I would say that even though this is a long, long road to travel, having the dedication of your whole family and a nurturing support system in place will help you get through those tough times.

“That support system may look different from person to person, but you must find those who are equally committed to finding the best care for your child. It is simply more than one family can manage alone.

“This was not an easy story for me to tell. But I think beyond building systems of support to the families affected by this, we need to build an understanding and an awareness in our community.”

That is what prompted Cherish to organize Ridgecrest Autism Awareness, a local resource for families that involves many other families committed to helping meet the needs of their children and reaching out to educate the community. (See related story.)

Story First Published: 2013-04-03