Our Story...Where to begin?
To give a quick background I had been married to my first husband for 6 years when my three boys received their diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorders. My first husband also struggled with being someone on the Autism Spectrum and Bi/Polar. We tried to manage and work through life together by using skill sets, unfortunately however, he made the choice to numb himself by using drugs and drinking to cope with stress.
I am a woman of faith, and during these challenging years of drugs, drinking, and children who needed help, I at least had a direction in which to go. I started where I could—with what I could control: my attitude towards Autism. I learned that with my attitude I could either sink or swim with what I had been given. Choice to swim: I have what I have and I can either love it or hate it. Choice to sink: I have what I have and I can fall victim to it. I felt that my attitude during these years was one of barely treading water—near sinking because it was so much so fast. However, answers were found through continuous research, skill development, and prayers--ahhhhh, swimming again!
I learned quickly about programs, routines, schedules, and that I needed to expose my children to different experiences so that they didn't remain in a bubble. I learned that by setting expectations and demanding manners, directly teaching them social skills, and structure that my children were going to be able to handle their social situations. I knew that if I tried to create a bubble around my children, in the end, I would never see them progress. I had a reason to keep working hard. I made an attitude choice to swim. Granted day to day hour to hour battles of crying, head banging, biting, bed wetting, non-eating (because of other physiological issues), could be overwhelming, I was taught to look for the” one good moment” of the day and say it over and over again to myself--swimming!
My children were now school age and I thought that I would finally get a break from the 24/7 experience of ASD, but that was short lived. Soon after my second son was in Kindergarten, I discovered abuse that was happening in the classroom, so I pulled my children from school and began to home-school them. I was back to drowning. I was not going to make this last leg of the swim when a life preserver was thrown my way. I was asked to be a founding parent of a charter school called, Spectrum Academy. It literally saved my mental life, my physical life, and my emotional life because it provided hope. With the help of these 7 amazing parents we created a school, and for me a job, income, and a way for me to be with three of my 5 children throughout the day. I was swimming again, but this time, it was my choice.
My first husband and I ended up divorcing because of the drugs and drinking; we left one night and never looked back. Even though the change in my children’s lives was so sudden and extreme, they felt a difference and we only had a few set-backs in their behaviors. Overall, the move was powerful and life changing. My x-husband was now held at bay from us with a protective order and we are able to live our lives to the fullest. I was able to remarry in 2009 to a wonderful man who accepts and loves us for who we are, not what the behaviors can manifest. Up to date, Scott and I have four more children together making ours a family of 11. Two of our children are deaf, and one of those children who are deaf also has Autism. We are embracing another challenge in our lives. I’m definitely swimming and enjoying the calmer waters.
Choices. Life Happens: you have a choice to sink or swim…choose to swim. Have hope: look at every day sometimes at every moment as something to celebrate. Take Action: educate yourself, keep up on the research, ask questions, and help others. You’ll always find that there is someone worse off then yourself. Make choices: Swim! Life is better that way.