Our Family’s Journey with Autism
Some of you may have noticed that our contributors have been doing all of the work for the past couple of months while I have been MIA. I am still very passionate about I Heart Fountain Hills, and have played an active role behind the scenes, but it has been difficult for me to write any posts within the past six months. Shortly before Christmas of last year, our 4 year old son was diagnosed with autism. My husband and I had begun to suspect something was amiss when our son continued to prefer playing by himself, over focused on specific things, lacked eye contact, and was displaying sensory issues. But the diagnosis still felt like a bomb dropped on our family. I went through all of the emotions, starting with shock throughout the holiday season, and trying to put on a good show for friends and family. Deep down I was overwhelmed and heartbroken. The feelings of guilt soon followed. Why didn’t I see the signs sooner? What could I have done differently? This was then followed by anger, and I mean anger towards anyone. I was angry at his pediatrician for not screening him. I was angry at my relatives who said I was just looking for something to be wrong with him. I was angry at little kids not giving him a chance on the playground. I was angry…period. So I started to withdraw. I think, partially because I needed some time to grieve, and partially because I had a difficult time seeing my son not know how to interact with other kids. It broke my heart.
Being the Change
But I realized I had to be a part of the change. I had to accept my son for who he is, harness and build upon his strengths, and help him in every way I could by being his advocate. That meant learning as much as I could about autism by researching and accessing therapies, learning how to teach him social skills, and helping facilitate play (even at risk of looking like a helicopter mom). It is just the beginning of our journey, and it is a difficult road ahead, but I look forward to seeing a glimmer of my sweet son’s progress every day.
Fountain Hills Parents of Special Kids Group
I don’t think I would be in the place I am in now without the support of the Fountain Hills Parents of Special Kids (FHPSK) group. When I reached out to the FHPSK facilitator, she informed me that she had recently moved, and inquired if I would be interested in leading it. I was a newbie, and was hesitant at first, but really felt there a was a need to start meeting other parents of special kids. I reluctantly held the first meeting, hoping for at least a couple of parents. We now have our regulars as well as new parents every meeting. These parents have been instrumental in helping me navigate how to access services through the school district, DDD (Department of Developmental Disabilities) and ALTCS (Arizona Long Term Care Services). But most of all, just having a trusted group of parents that can relate with my own experience has made a huge difference in my peace of mind. Also, with a great mix of parents of older and younger kids, everyone has something to contribute and learns something new.
Guest Speaker: Cynthia Macluskie + Meet and Greet
We are excited to announce that for our May 31 “Meet and Greet” we will be having a guest speaker, Cynthia Macluskie, VP of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix.
Cynthia’s son was diagnosed with autism at 2.5 years old. Through biomedical and therapeutic means her son has lost his diagnosis of autism and is now a typical 17 year old. Her story was featured on Good Morning America and the New York Times. She will be speaking to us about accessing services and answering any questions you have.
How to Get Involved?
If you have a child with special needs, I encourage you to join us! Here’s a couple things you can do:
- “Like” the Fountain Hills Parents of Special Kids FB page, so you can get updates on latest news and events. Play dates coming soon!
- Join us! We have a “Meet and Greet” the last Tuesday of every month at 7pm at Shepherd of the Hills Church.
- Join our closed discussion group on FB which provides FH parents the ability to connect outside of our monthly meetings and give each other ongoing support.
- Email us at fhparentsofspecialkids(at)gmail(d0t)com.