This is Jen B, Occupational Therapy Assistant for #teamTES in Columbus, OH. She’s also an extraordinary mom, and has shared her reflections on raising a son with Autism.
“My first born baby was diagnosed with Autism and my family’s world changed immediately. I was a nurse, I had taken care of children with multiple needs and was still not prepared for the world that was ahead of me... My son is now 13, and he has made life so much sweeter. Because of him I became an occupational therapy assistant, which has been amazing. He’s taught me that sometimes the life you planned is nowhere near as great as the adventure you never thought you wanted. I have found family in the women that have gone through a similar journey. I have found an appreciation for my son... a child that overcomes and fights every obstacle in his path. He prepared me for the hardest moments of my life, and when I think I’m done learning, he grows and teaches me more. He teaches me that I should put no limits on him, that this child that fought to find his voice has taught me to find mine and be the advocate that I never thought I could be. He makes me a better therapist, nurse, advocate, friend and mother... not only to him but to his two siblings with special needs. My hero with Autism calls me mom, and I’m so grateful.”
In addition to Amber K’s tireless work as our Program Manager in Fairlawn, Ohio, she is also the loving mom of a child with Autism. She has shared her reflections with us in celebration of Autism Awareness Month:
“Collin was diagnosed with Autism at 3. Through his testing, I thought I had prepared myself for the diagnosis. To actually hear the words from a professional is life changing. The dreams that I had for my child became different in an instant. I became different. Our life became about routines, therapy sessions and most of all about hope. I think about the challenges we faced early on as we both learned what we were capable of. Collin has taught me far more than I could ever teach him. He taught me patience, unconditional love and how to laugh even when things are tough. You will rarely see my sweet boy without a smile on his face and the love he exudes touches everyone that he meets. We have been so blessed to have such a wonderful team of people that I know without a doubt love him for him. His diagnosis prepared me for the career that I have now. I watch children every day celebrate the smallest successes and I’m honored to get to celebrate with them and their families as they celebrate ours with us. When I look at him, I’m filled with such pride at what he has accomplished in his 7 years of life and there is no doubt he will become more than I could have ever imagined.”
When my daughter was just 3 years old, she was a bright child and would engage actively in age-appropriate play with her peers, but there was something different about her compared to her older sister. When she would play with her favorite toys, it was like she couldn’t hear the world around her. We’d call out her name, make noises to get her attention, and she wouldn’t respond. With all of my training as a Speech Pathologist, which wasn’t much at the time as I had just entered the field, I sensed something was wrong. I first assumed she had a hearing impairment. At that time, they didn’t do universal hearing screenings for newborns, so she had not been tested in the hospital. I made an appointment with an audiologist friend and found her ears to be working perfectly. Still, there was something that was not right. Her pediatrician suggested that the family complete an assessment. What we found, at the young age of 3 ½ years old, was that my daughter had Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity. It wasn’t that she couldn’t hear us; she was literally tuning us out and hyper-focusing on her toys.
In early elementary school, she struggled to focus in class, but we were lucky enough to get her into a charter school that allowed the students to work at their own pace and not in traditional rows of desks. The Montessori method proved to be great in many ways, but also allowed her to stay under the radar and she was not getting her ‘jobs’ done. It was in that shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ in 4th grade that her disability began to separate her from her peers and it was at that time that she entered into an IEP to give her goals and accommodations to help her become more successful in school. She remained on her IEP through her first year in high school and in that time she learned many great skills for coping with her attention difficulties. Fast forward to now her Senior year in High School. She has graduated from her IEP and is successfully managing a typical school load with minimal 504 accommodations. She is graduating Cum Laude and was accepted into every college that she applied to attend. She has learned to love reading and that “other world” that she frequented when she was a kid and was hyper focused in play has inspired her to become a great writer.
Living life with a disability doesn’t have to be debilitating. My daughter has found ways to adapt and has in many ways surpassed her peers academically and socially. We are so proud of the young lady that she has become within her disability. Her world is wide open to wonderful possibilities.