Carmen Nivar and Joseph Peralta Sr. are the parents of Joseph Peralta Jr., but before Joseph Sr. had the chance to see his first-born son a NYC bus took his life away from him abruptly on the evening of his baby shower. This tragedy occurred just eight days before Joseph Jr. was born, consequently sending Carmen into a depressive state. Carmen credits her depression as a part of the reason she did not start to see some of the signs that her son was not doing some of the things her other children had done at his age. During her regular doctor visits she was always told that he was fine, so she concluded that Joseph Jr. would eventually start to exhibit the typical behavior of a child his age. It was not until Joseph Jr., who is known to his family as Bebo, was 2 ½ years old that Carmen realized that he still wasn’t speaking. According to her she was giving him time because she was told that all kids are different. She would soon find out exactly how different Bebo was after taking him to be evaluated.
After being evaluated at least five times Bebo was diagnosed by a psychologist as having mild to moderate autism, a diagnosis that no other doctor had been able to make. This diagnosis caught Carmen by surprise and left her wondering what this would mean for her child. For a while she just felt numb, but found the strength to cut through her own pain, so that she could help her son as much as possible. She would soon learn that Bebo had nearly missed the opportunity to receive early intervention services (EIS) because his diagnosis wasn’t made sooner. According to Hear Our Voices, if early intervention services include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) parents will see their child improve dramatically.
Acronyms like ABA and OT (Occupational Therapy) were not things Carmen typically had to think about. However, Carmen would now have to enter a world of which she knew nothing about and educate herself on different forms of therapies for autistic children. She realized that not only are there so many people who are unaware of the prevalence of autism, there are also not as many resources made available to the parents. Finding the services Bebo would need seemed like a scavenger hunt, however, with the assistance of agencies like ICare4Autism, Carmen was able to find a school that Bebo could attend. With so few teachers willing or knowledgeable enough about how to educate an autistic child, Carmen was happy to find that the teachers at Katharine Dodge Brownell School (KDBES) were adequately prepared for the task. Since attending KDBES, Bebo has made significant improvements. He now speaks and is able to tell his mother when he wants to eat or if he doesn’t want something. After three years and eight months Bebo has also finally said the words that all mothers long to hear, “I love you.” While these improvements may seem modest to some, they have made a huge difference for the relationship between Carmen and Bebo. Having the ability to finally be able to effectively communicate with her son isn’t something she will ever take for granted. Carmen is currently seeking ways to become a more effective advocate for children with autism so children like her son Bebo can reap the benefits.