People Who Make Raising a Child with Autism Easier on Me
- My husband – When I met my husband, Aidan hadn't been diagnosed yet. He was a crazy child who wasn't potty trained, wasn't verbal, had meltdowns, and left me ragged and slightly insane. I'm not sure why or how he managed to stick around through Aidan's severe autism at the time and my untreated bipolar disorder, but somehow it happened. He stuck around through the poop-tastrophes and violent screaming fits, and supported me as I finally took Aidan to Vanderbilt to find out if our worries that he had autism were true. When the diagnosis was PDD-NOS (or high-functioning autism/atypical autism, as Dr. Warren explained it to us), Jeremy took it in stride, supporting me, helping me find the right place and treatment for Aidan in the aftermath of the diagnosis. He eventually allowed my son and I to move into his house with him, in spite of Aidan's penchant for destruction. When I decided that it would be best for Aidan if I quit my job so I could spend more time with him after school, Jeremy supported that decision and never looked back (or maybe he did, but he never really said anything). He's been beat up, kicked, scratched, screamed at, and even spent 2 sleepless nights at the hospital with Aidan and I when Aidan busted his head. Last November we were married. Jeremy still amazes me at how willing he is to be Aidan's daddy and how much he loves the kid and actually takes the time and effort to help Aidan grow and blossom into the best he can be. I know lots of autism moms who are nowhere near as lucky when it comes to their spouses. I'm glad I'm not one of them.
- My parents – I'm one of those people who grew up with two sets of parents thanks to divorce. It was complicated and not always easy, but in the long run it was a great thing for Aidan because he gets more grandparents. My mom and stepdad are amazing with Aidan, keep him when they can, and are super supportive. Mom and Daddy went with me to Vanderbilt when we had Aidan diagnosed, and Mom has come with me to IEP meetings, doctor appointments, and who knows what else. My Dad and stepmom, Holly, come down as often as they can to spend time with Aidan – Dad even came down for Aidan's first Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet to see him get his Bobcat badge! None of them have ever questioned the choices I make for my son; they share new autism studies I might not have seen; they treat Aidan like he's just a normal little boy but accommodate his often frustrating needs without so much as a blink of an eye.
- Aidan's autism unit teacher – Annie is amazing. Seriously. She took a kid who spent more days in the principal's office than in the actual classroom, and taught him how to be a student, how to learn in spite of his limitations, how to interact with his peers. Now he's able to spend all day in a mainstream classroom with no aid! It's so helpful to have a teacher who is in constant contact with me, and dreams just as big as I do for my child. With all the horror stories of people who've had to go into battle with their child's teachers at each IEP meeting, I'm grateful that we've only once had to do that.
- Aidan's babysitter – We don't always get along. She may not always agree with how I handle Aidan's issues. But when it comes down to, Wendy has a gift. She was his babysitter for quite some time while I was still working, and even now keeps him pretty regularly. Somehow she just has a certain touch that makes Aidan want to act right and enjoy the world around him. She's not professionally trained to work with kids with special needs, but Aidan isn't the only special needs kid she's taken care of and she has a special touch with all of them. I'm grateful, even when she drives me crazy, that she loves my kid and helps him to be his best.
- My best friend – How many times has this girl listened to me whine and moan and get all pissed off at whichever facet of the world has gone up against me or my son. She never judges, and she defends my choices and reminds me that I am, in fact, a good mom. Sometimes I need just that. And sometimes I just need to go get my nails done and get a drink – she's good for that too.
- Aidan's pediatrician – Dr. Denny. He answers my questions honestly, doesn't look at me like I'm crazy when I ask questions about Aidan's weirdness, and has always made sure I was referred to the right place and people to get the right help for Aidan. He's the one who helped us get him speech therapy, the one who sent us up to Vanderbilt for Aidan's diagnosis. He makes sure he sets aside extra time for Aidan every time we have an appointment and asks lots of questions to make sure he understands everything about Aidan's progress or issues. He keeps himself educated and informed about the latest science and breakthroughs in the autism community. I hope everyone is as lucky to have a great doctor on their side.
- The autism community – You guys are amazing!! I don't know what I'd do without my fellow autism moms and dads who commiserate, yell, cry, laugh, and question with me at all hours of the night and day. It's such a relief to be able to ask a question and have an answer from a dozen fellow parents. It inspires me to offer the same support and love to people in my position – because I know how it felt when Aidan first got diagnosed and I didn't know ANYONE who had a child on the spectrum and so I had no idea what was normal or what to do. I hope I can be the same support for all of you as you are for me.
Thank you to all of you. You're the best and you make my journey with Aidan through the world of autism so much easier and more fun. I hope all of you have as much support on your journeys as I do on mine.