Autism & Motherhood X2
Autism is a word that most of us hear about in a variety of places, and we most likely see it on social media. However, I am one of those individuals who knows nothing about Autism. There is one of the several moms I know who will share her story with us, and what she has done to keep moving forward in life as a blessed mother of two beautiful boys with Autism.
Amy is a military spouse who was stationed in Mexico City when they found out the news that one of her sons was Autistic. You’ll be amazed at the resiliency of this woman of strength. Here’s her story!
Tell us a little about you!
My husband and I are originally from a small town in NY. He joined the Marine Corps and I went away to college then our paths crossed again a few years later. We got married during my senior year of college after a whirlwind romance. That was 10 1/2 years ago and here we are today! We have two amazing boys who are 6 & 4. We recently relocated to North Carolina and are slowly settling in.
We know that you are the blessed Mom of two Autistic children. Can you share with us a little bit of the process to an official diagnosis?
My younger son got diagnosed first. We were living in Mexico at the time and he was hospitalized for dehydration. He was never the best eater but after we moved when he was 18 months old, he started restricting what he was eating more and more. That eventually led to an illness, subsequent hospitalization and later, a trip to Texas for an appointment with the developmental pediatrician. It all seemed unrelated at the time but made a lot of sense once we met with the pediatrician. We knew he was way behind in speech but had overlooked the other signs. He didn't respond to his name when we called him, he rarely made eye contact and he didn't interact with us much when we played together. We went to Texas to figure out why he wasn't eating and left with an autism diagnosis. It wasn't a total shock but it was a little bit of a surprise because he was just over 2 at the time and we went to discuss his eating issues.
With my 6-year-old, I started to feel like something was wrong around 3 1/2. He was talking but not really conversing with us. He would repeat what we said a lot. I later learned this is called echolalia and it's very common in kiddos with autism. He was diagnosed after we moved back to the states to start therapy for my youngest. Essentially, it was like we got two diagnoses at the same time.
Do you have a good support network? Did you look for outside support when you and your family were introduced to the world of Autism?
When we first arrived back in the states, I did not have a good support network so I created one! There weren't any support groups at our base and many of the resources were 20-30 miles away. In Northern, Virginia that can take an hour or more to get to. I needed something closer to home so I reached out on a local military spouse page and asked if anyone would be interested in joining. I got some feedback so I went ahead and created a group. We mostly chatted over Facebook, vented and cheered each other on virtually. We're all pretty busy so coordinating schedules for coffee dates was difficult but we did get together on occasion. The boys' various therapists also became family. Some of them were in our home for 10+ hours a week so they saw me at my worst and celebrated with me when we were at our best. I'm looking forward to plugging in to the local support network here in NC.
What do you think it's the biggest misconception about Autism?
I think biggest misconception is that just because our children can't always communicate that they are stupid or don't understand what we're saying. It took me a long time to realize that my 4-year-old was understanding most of what we were saying and he was choosing not to do what we asked. (TODDLERS!!)
Another misconception is that autism has a certain look. Early on I had someone tell me my child didn't look autistic. Autism presents itself different in each individual. My boys are very different in their behaviors and personalities.
What would you say to the parents of other Autistic children? Especially those new to the diagnoses?
I always tell new parents that everything is going to be okay. It's a lot to take in but your child is still the same awesome kiddo that they were before but now you'll have the tools to help him or her blossom in a world that is different from their own. I also offer to buy them coffee because we are usually exhausted. I also encourage parents who have concerns about early development to reach out to their pediatrician. Getting a child screened will not mean they will not get a diagnosis but early intervention is important with autism. We missed out on some early learning years with my 4-year-old because he always passed the developmental screenings.
What would you tell to our readers who aren't familiar with Autism? What would you want us to know and understand?
Autism is not a death sentence and it's certainly not something to be afraid of. If you are lucky enough to know someone with autism, step in to their world. They may want to talk your ear off about trains or dinosaurs or Legos but that's their way of connecting with you. Lastly, if you see a child in a store having a meltdown, instead of staring or whispering or silently judging, ask the mom or dad how you can help! We don't like to ask for help so "how can I help?" is a great question to start with.
A million thanks to Amy for sharing her story with us! If you know a woman of strength, please nominate her to share her story. Email us at email@example.com. These stories do not only give us a little insight of what other women go through on a daily basis, but they also motivate us, inspire us, and empower us.