STORY BY Natalie Soultanov | Small Town Kids Jan-Mar 2017
On June 25, 2007, my husband and I welcomed our first child. We decided to name our little guy, Maxim. I always loved the name Max. I feel Max is a very masculine name. And not to mention I also loved Maxim on “Dancing with the Stars”. My husband liked the name because of it being a well rounded worldly name. I guess you can say I’m an all-American girl and my husband is Russian to the core. Born and raised in Tyler, I never expected to meet a Russian. We married in 2004 bringing two cultures together with love. When Max was born we were in love. He was exactly what I expected my little Russian boy Max to look like. When he was little, I would say he was my little “ruskiy malchik ” (Russian boy). He was chubby with rolls my little dumpling.
When Max was two weeks old he was diagnosed with Supra Ventricular Tachycardia. On a routine two week check up, Max was rushed to hospital because his heart rate had reach 280. At the age of 1, Max was taken off all medication to lower his heart rate. Life went on normally and Max grows and hits his milestones. After his first year we began to see a change in Max. His eating habits changed. He had a cows milk allergy. He would only eat certain foods. He began to regress. My mother watched Max while my husband and I worked. She began to see changes in his behavior. He would spin tops for hours, line up cars and play repetitively with certain toys. He would have severe meltdowns that seemed to be out of nowhere. One evening my mother and I took him to the emergency room because he was screaming and throwing himself back as if he was in a great deal of pain. They sent us home saying that he was fine.
When he was 1, we took him to see family in Russia for the first time. While we were gone, my mother was worried about Max. She kept him while I worked so she had a bond with Max. She believed that because of his eating habits and sensitivity to certain kinds of food he would not have enough to eat in Russia. She worried and prayed for us often. When we returned from Russia, my mom told me that God had told her something. She was praying for his safety and health while he was gone. She said that God woke her up in the middle of the night and told her to look up the word autism.
My husband and I were in disbelief. We thought his behaviors were typical because this was our first child we had nothing to compare child development to. My mother grew concerned at his behavior with spinning anything that would spin.
He continued to have the severe meltdowns and obsessions. We began to talk with our pediatrician about our concerns. When Max was three we were referred to a behavior specialist. After two hours of watching Max’s behaviors while playing and talking she diagnosed him with Persuasive Development Disorder and Sensory Integration Disorder. I remember walking out of that office not knowing what to do. This appointment led to the start of a journey through the ups and downs of autism.
I searched and searched online day and night about sensory integration disorder. Subconsciously I believed that this would all go away and that it was a phase he would grow out of. I was wrong. The sensory issues became very evident. We researched and took Max to a place in Colorado called the Star Center for a month so he could be observed and we could learn more about sensory integration. We walked away with more insight to what our child endures on a daily basis and how to help him cope with sensory overload.
I knew deep down that Max had Aspergers ( now high-functioning austim). All of my research kept leading me to Autism. My mother was right. When Max was 5 he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
Many emotions came from this diagnosis. After much thought and talking things over with my family, we realized the diagnosis was needed to help Max reach his full potential.
The challenges he still faces everyday have everything to do with sensory issues. Sensory issues lead to trouble with social interactions. Max receives occupational therapy and speech therapy through Tyler Independent School District.
Max is 8 now and attends Owens Elementary. He is in a mainstream classroom and is doing great. He is a brilliant child who loves dogs, antiquing and riding his scooter. Max remembers everything and will talk to everyone. As a mother, you want to teach your child life skills. I opened a small business in Max’s honor to teach him about business and social skills. Maximal’s Stuffed Friends is a mobile build your own bear business.
I hope that after reading about my journey with autism that families are inspired to learn more about autism. My advice to parents of children with special needs is to be an advocate for the child and believe in them. Don’t lose hope and know that special needs children are a godsend in your life they are here to teach and direct you towards the love that Jesus Christ has for each and everyone one of us. There is a remarkable amount of spiritual enlightenment that my son has. Max Soultanov is one of a kind and I love him with all my heart! We now have Mason who is 3 and he has been a wonderful little brother for Max. God sent Mason for Max. Max will have a forever friend that understands him better than anyone else.