BOOM! 2016 Bring on 2017

As 2016 comes to an end, WordPress pleasantly reminded me of my one year Anniversary since I started writing.  I wanted to thank each of you that have come along and followed our journey thus far.  Your encouraging thoughts, questions, empowerment and support has been amazing.  Writing is my therapy and in return I had set out several hopes to accomplish. I hope I made another parent remember they are not alone on this journey.  I hope I have shared something that may have been helpful and gain them more knowledge.  I hope I shared some resources that have helped you and your families.  I hope I shared some experiences that you too could relate too. And most of all, I hope I brought some awareness and education about autism to those that simply wanted to gain a better understanding.

I started writing publically in December of 2015.  My purpose for starting this journey was for Cameron and Cody to one day have these journal entries and do whatever they wanted to do with them when they got older.  Reflect back on their childhood, become a national speaker and share what autism looked like through their eyes, educate others about their wisdom of living with autism or perhaps write a book or simply share the amazing things that Cody has taught us as a family that we otherwise would never have learned without living with a child with special needs.


Looking at one of the very first blogs, Reflections on Year One I wrote, it quickly reminded me how far our family has come. Our knowledge, acceptance and understanding and most importantly Cody’s constant progression and developmental growth.  Last year on Christmas Eve I shared this below which is such a different feeling I have this year.

In the months immediately following Cody’s diagnosis, we were mourning. Mourning the loss of what we thought was a typically developing child.  Then we quickly went through all the grieving stages  (in no particular order) and still do at times.  Then you hit the panic button wondering what therapy do we choose and what is best for Cody? Of all the 200 methods out their specifically for Autism, where do you start and who do you trust to help guide you through this journey?

But then suddenly, we changed—our eyes, like Cody’s, opened. Looking at the same landscape and seeing something different.

We pressed forward with as much early intervention therapy Cody could handle.  Books stacked in piles on the nightstand along with countless articles found on my Kindle to research and sponge everything we could learn about Autism. Our lives rearranged.

Then about half way through the year, we began to get settled into a rhythm of therapies.  Books finished, different schools of thought studied, conversations about fundraisers started, prayers said, progress snail-slow (but subtly occurring).

And recently for the first time the word “on” is contingent and he makes a vocalization when he wants something “on”. Not always sounding like “on” but he knows he must vocalize.

It’s those small steps and brings us such joy and hope.

2016 brought so much growth. Everything has increased in his development and most importantly he seems to be more present in his own surroundings and he officially will kiss you!  He engages with those he knows, watching more children play, follows instructions, has great imitation and learning to makes requests through a picture exchange system.  None of this he could do in 2015.

Here are a few highlights at the end of August that were noted and have increased since this time:

Functional Communication

Asks for 5-7 items consistently using approximations to words

  • Drink, movie, eat, ball, go, push, bounce


  • We are currently using PECS as a mode of communication (working on expanding pictures in his PECS book). He has approximately 25 pictures in his PECS book.
  • He will locate PECS book in room, remove desired picture, exchange picture (with eye contact majority of time; vocals/approximations on more commonly selected items).
  • He can identify (receptively) 7 pictures in his PECS book. Working on identifying more pictures.

Other ways of communication:

  • Pull you to desired location

Receptive Pictures

From an array of 3-7 pictures; point/hand me/find ___


  • Monkey, ball, diaper, car, mama, daddy, brobro, bear, shoe, puzzle, blocks, swing, backpack, chair, bed, table, fork, sock, pool, potty, brush, apple, cracker, towel, cookie, banana

Spoon, cup, pants, shirt, chip, toothbrush


From an array of 3-7 pictures; point/hand me/find ___


  • Cat, pig, horse, elephant, dog, cow, chicken, bird, turtle, lion, mouse, bunny, dolphin, frog, zebra, giraffe, bear, sheep, fish, alligator, duck, bee, spider, dinosaur, snake, shark

Receptive Objects

Present in the room (up to 8 feet); get the ___/where’s the ___/find the ___


  • Drink, book, ball, monkey, bear, movie (i-pad), car, shoe, Puzzle, computer (toy one), rocking horse, music


Instructions (to perform an action)

Presents instruction


  • Clap hands, dance, jump, wave, turn around, stand up, sit down, shake head “no”, etc.

Instructions (go get/do something)

Present instruction


  • Towel, backpack, take plate to sink, snack, diaper, tissue, wash hands (walk to sink/put hands in sink), dry hands, shirt, pants

Simple Sounds

Teacher models sound


  • B, M, T, H, D, P, EE, OU, Ah, Uh, H, N


Teacher models blended sounds


  • Boo, Buh, Doo, Duh, Dee, Day, etc.


Teacher presents a picture, child labels picture with approximation to the word


  • Brobro, daddy, ball, puzzle (Puh), drink (duh), hat, book (boo), outside (out), movie and many more!

Block Imitation

Teach provides model


  • 1 step with several blocks present

Letter & Numbers

From an array of 5 – 10 letters; point/hand me/find ___


  • Upper case letters
  • Numbers 1-10
  • Lower case letters (array 5 -10)
  • Numbers 11-20 (array of 3)
  • Shapes
  • Colors
  • 40 Site words

Additional Programs

  • Drawing simple lines and shapes

Mastered Programs

  • Imitation, matching (identical and non-identical items), sorting (identical and non-identical items)

2017 is right around the corner. What are my hopes for year three? This year will be very telling for us on what our future will hold and what direction Cody will take us on next  in his journey.  Will he be prepared to attend kindergarten? Will he gain more schools days with Communications Class? Will he find his voice?  Will he use his iPad to communicate?  Will he learn to ride a bike or swim?

For Cody, my hopes remain the same as last year:

For Cody, I want the parts of autism that cause him confusion and difficulty to go away; I don’t ever want his quirkiness, his unique intelligence, or his cute Cody-isms to go away. I never want him to lose what makes him Cody Rivers.

I hope that this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living and pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing the world.  You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

My hopes, are simple:

If he continues to grow in the way he did this past year, that is all I hope for.  As I have said before, I believe changes will continue to come and will never lose hope.  I also have learned new things about myself that Cody has taught me.  Now that we have a better understanding of how he learns, think of what makes him happy and observe his actions, versus what would make a typical child happy.  Amazing how far he has allowed us in his world.

So thank you for following my blog. Thank you for reading all 44,967 words over this past year. Thank you for the 4,016 views to my page.  Thank you for the 91 comments and likes.


Let there be peace on earth this holiday season!  God bless.


Published by mamalamaneustupa

Bio My name is Shelley Neustupa. I am a mother of two cool boys and a wife of 22 years to my high school sweetheart. My oldest son attends the University of Oklahoma. Boomer! My youngest is in 2nd grade and was diagnosed with Autism and Mixed Receptive Expressive Disorder at age 2. Since his diagnosis, I promised him I would advocate and educate as hard as he works each day in therapy. I began writing and have been able to touch many parents that may be new to this journey providing them with actual experiences (not candy coated), support and resources through my entries. Writing is my therapy and my hope one day that my nonverbal son will be able to take these diaries and speak about his own journey and how autism relates to his own experiences. Who knows he and his older brother may become National Speaker’s one day? Come along on our journey to better understand our lives through the eyes of a boy with autism, his Skilled Companion dog Jude, his big brother (and best friend) and mom and dad. My raw vulnerability captures the everyday moments of our journey and will bring even more awareness. A week does not go by where we do not learn something new about ourselves and I want to share these chapters with you. My Sons Undeniable Strengths… Extremely smart and figures out things quickly. Has a memory that allows him to remember more things than I could ever hope for. Persuasive by his personality and sheepish looks. Overabundance of stamina and strength. Loves the outdoors. Enjoys life and always has fun with an unforgettable smile. You can find us here: Writer: Autism Through His Eyes Facebook Instagram YouTube Pinterest Canine Companions for Independence News Interview Cody and Skilled Companion Jude - Our Story

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