I am an avid reader of the Nation, and I have read many articles, letters, and stories concerning important issues such as the Paix des Braves, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. But, I noticed that I had never seen anyone write about special needs children. I know that there are many of them out there. These victims of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and so on, all have a voice and that is why we see so many articles about them. What about these children, such as my son? Who is their voice?

I am a mother of a very special 3 year old boy, who is most likely, autistic. It was just recently that it was thought that he had this condition, and showed symptoms of this. I knew a long time ago that something was not right. I started having worries, when his first birthday came and went and he still hadn’t started walking yet. It wasn’t until he was 18 months old that he started walking on his own. I just thought to myself, ‘well, he is just a little behind, that’s all.’ But by the time his second birthday came, he still hadn’t spoken a word and I became more concerned. I voiced my concerns to my son’s doctor in August 2001. He said that my son would have to be seen by the pediatrician on his next visit to our community. He too was also concerned by his speech delay. I waited and waited.

At the end of January 2002, I happened to be at the local clinic with my other son, when I saw that the pediatrician was there. I asked the nurse if my oldest son was on the list to see the pediatrician because I had not received a call from the clinic. My son was not on the list, so the nurse then put him on as a special case, and we saw the pediatrician a couple of days later. From then on, things progressed more quickly. We were off to Montreal in the beginning of April for the first round of testing. On August 18th we will be there again to confirm the autism.

I felt very strongly to write about my son and share his story, I am also hoping it will raise awareness towards these special children. Parents and health care professionals ought to be more sensitive towards the needs and abilities of these children.

My hope is for parents will look out for warning signs or delays in their children’s development. Even if you think that it is nothing and you don’t think it’s worth telling the doctor, tell them! It will be better in the long run. I wish I had said something sooner. Remember, you as a parent are your child’s best advocate, and the one who knows your child best. You have to fight for their rights and their well being.

My son Simon is quite lucky, he has attended daycare since last August and has received much help from the educators there, for which my family and I will be forever grateful. I am also thankful for the ‘buddies’ my son has made at daycare. One of my fears was that he would be teased, but his friends are always there to help him when he needs it. There are different services that you can turn to and request assistance. There’s your local clinic, social services, school and daycare. The daycare has become an important part of our lives.

At the moment, Simon is making progress, he seems to understand more, has uttered a few words off and on, and seems to be on the verge of speaking. He’s about to start school this month. His future is looking brighter to me, even though so much is yet unknown.

So the next time you come across such a child, take the time to see what wonderful people they are deep inside. It may seem that they don’t listen to you, but they are listening and they do have feelings, so take the time to speak and listen to them.

Thanks to the people who have made a difference and have supported Simon and our families, my colleague at the Wemindji Police Force, the nurses and doctors, the daycare educators. A special thanks to Simon’s grandparents who give us hope, endless support and love. We would not have made it this far if it wasn’t for you. We love you all. Thanks also to my other son Dakota who, in his own way, helps his older brother. Simon learns from him.

Every now and then, when things are tough, I still feel like I am alone and no one understand how I feel. I wrote this article to show those parents out there that they’re not alone, there is help and love out there.

This is dedicated to one of the most exceptional and unique people in my life, my son Simon Joseph William Natawapineskum-Jonah. You are my strength, my hope, and my hero. I am so proud of you! Good luck in school. I love you Simonsh!

Your mother and greatest admirer, Isabelle Natawapineskum