How Autism gave me strength
The day I realized my son had Autism
My child, the artist
How Autism gave me strengthMy name is De Anna and I am the mother of a loving, handsome, curious non-verbal five-year-old boy named Jaxen. Jaxen was officially diagnosed with autism at age 3. From that time, I’ve had to fight for him. My greatest victory was going up against the board of Ed to get him into the school he’s in now. Jaxen doesn’t have meltdowns or the behavioral issues that are sometimes associated with autism, so they tried to stick him anywhere. They wanted me to accept the school that was offered which was awful and not properly equipped for children on the spectrum. They told me that was our only option, and that was his school. I obtained a pro-bono attorney and fought back. It took a few months, but we got what we wanted. Today Jaxen is in one of the best D75 schools in the Bronx. He is thriving and learning every day. Having a child with autism brought out my inner strength. My ability to stand up about and for my child. It happens sometimes, and I don’t realize it until after the fact. This journey will expose things about yourself you never knew. I knew I was a strong woman, but this strength that Jaxen has brought out is truly amazing.
The day I realized my son had AutismI remember the day my husband & I first saw the signs of Autism in our youngest son Isaiah. I remember it so clearly like it was yesterday. Isaiah was about 2 years old & we were at a local park for a family outing. The weather was beautiful.. the perfect day for outdoor play. After playing on the swings & slides Isaiah found what looked like a pretend steering wheel. I noticed him playing with it, moving it from side to side & then it happened! I saw him begin to look at the wheel intensely through the corner of his eyes, then he started pacing back & forth in front of it & flapping his hands. I went over to him & just sat in the sand & watched him. I didn’t say anything, just watched. It was like I was frozen. Then my husband noticed & we both just watched for a little while. We eventually left the park & our ride home was silent. I cried a little because I knew in that moment without a doubt that Isaiah had Autism. You see my older son (who was 7 at the time) also has Autism so my husband & I knew the signs. Along with our pediatrician we were watching Isaiah closely (from birth) & though he didn’t have much language yet we had not seen any of the repetitive behaviors or stimming like in my older son. And that gave me hope! Looking back maybe I was in denial (again). A few days after our visit to the park I gave our pediatrician a call & let her know what we observed. She had us come in for an appointment & after lots of discussion & observing she confirmed that Isaiah had Autism too. We were given another referral for the Regional Center. I didn’t cry in the office this time like I had when my older son was diagnosed, instead I was just numb. In the days & weeks that followed I became very depressed. The strange thing is though I was depressed & battling anxiety too I advocated for my boys. I went to work for Isaiah just like I had for my older son. Autism became my life – I went to every class/workshop in my area, networked with parents who were like me, participated in the Autism Walk & most importantly I stood up for my boy's educational rights during IEP meetings. But I was so sad on the inside, crying just about every day, & asking God why me? I stopped doing the things I enjoyed, I was terrible at self-care & I became distant with close friends. Then one day I had a pretty bad emotional break-down. I realized in that moment that I was tired of the anxiety.. tired of feeling depressed.. tired of holding everything in. I needed help & I needed to take care of ME. I found a wonderful therapist who helped me through that difficult time. And a good friend who encouraged me to pray & work on my relationship with God. I’m in a much better place today! Several years have passed since my boys were first diagnosed. Yes, I still have difficult days, I don’t think that will ever change, BUT I don’t get stuck there! That’s the key! I created a great support system in family & close friends. And I don’t feel guilty any more when I need some “me time”. I accepted this was my path.. our path & I embrace it!
My child, the artistMy life was totally changed by the entrance of a little girl on June 13, 2011. Amoree Rayne is all I could ever dream of and then some. Our hopes and dreams have changed over the past six years but, we still hope and dream, none the less. Sometimes our hopes come crashing down on us like a freight train and make us regroup. This is one of those times. Autism! Epilepsy! And NONVERBAL!!! God, what else can You throw at me? My child became an artist early in her Autism life… an artist who painted with Poop instead of paint. I have never cried so hard as I did when my daughter was at the beauty shop and had a poop incident. She painted the salon floor, walls, seats and herself with poop. The beautician called me and said that she needed an extra set of clothes for Amoree because she had to change her. Can you spell… D E V A S T A T E D?!!! I gathered cleaning supplies and clothing and headed to the beauty shop… I made it there and Amoree was sitting in a chair completely clean with clothes on and there was nothing for me to clean up… They had done it all. I tried to apologize to the owner and she told me… We all have children... We all had different abilities in our children and we all have cleaned up poop... I didn’t ask you for cleaning supplies... I asked you for clothes. Go home… Amoree is fine and so are you. With tears rolling down my face, I left that shop that day knowing that I was not alone on this journey and that God would put people in my life to help me make it day by day. Delasber Sanders