For those of us who are parents of children with Autism, I know it is hard to see any Style in it. A diagnosis is scary, devastating, all consuming and financially exhausting. I still remember feeling like I was in a dream after finally getting our diagnosis. I was praying for someone to say “sorry we got it mixed up, your daughter is great, no worries”. To make the experience even more difficult the panel of medical specialists who gave out our diagnosis basically said “yes your child has autism, the early intervention programs are full but here are some phone numbers to call for therapy and remember she is still the beautiful child that you brought in here today”. Can you say lost, when I think back it was ridiculous.
So my husband and I set out to do whatever we could to help our daughter and ourselves through the life changing diagnosis. We traveled to California and went to Autism conferences, we ate a wheat and dairy free diet for 9 months (my husband got very thin), we signed our daughter up for 3 types of private therapy (speech, behavioural, occupational) 2 hours a day 5 days a week. We also had our daughter undergo full metal and food sensitivity testing, hyperbaric chamber therapy, MRIs, EEGs, dental surgeries, a year trail of seizure medications and Vitamin B-12 injections. We committed to a naturopathic DAN doctor in Vancouver (taking numerous supplement daily), bought an infrared sauna, tried music and art therapy, swimming lessons, horse riding lessons and believe me the list goes on. So exhausting! I am shocked that we lived through the last 8 years relatively unscathed considering we also had a typical son one month after her diagnosis to care for.
We were blessed that our daughter got into a really wonderful catholic private school that she has attended since kindergarten. She was and still is “one of a kind” at the school but has a full time Educational Assistant and truly enjoys going. She has her own programs being non-verbal but we are so grateful that she can even be in a class with her peer group where I feel she is included and loved.
Our daughter really has her own Style. I would say cozy chic. 😉 She loves her sunglasses and beads (what we call her Mardi Gras look), her hair up, fuzzy textures and bright colours. She is now an incredible swimmer and still swims 4 days a week. So this means she has a beautiful collection of bathing suits as being in the water is really her thing. She also horseback rides once a week when school is in and since we are the same shoe size I have the perfect excuse to buy fantastic riding and cowboy boots. I also know that our family style has a lot to do with fitness because exercise has been the key to keeping our daughter and family happy and healthy.
We still have LOTS of challenges but our family has gotten to a place where Autism doesn’t rule our lives and we aren’t acting on the next so called “cure“. We are much more relaxed about her therapy, diet and non-typical behaviours. We have gotten into our own family groove and we know what works and what doesn’t. We feel less guilty about saying “no” to things that are more stressful than fun.
If you want to be supportive of someone you know who has a child with autism the best advise I can give is to offer them a break away from the child. This break is not about giving your friend or family advice or information on Autism (believe me they will be bombarded with advice and information) and it’s also not about telling them you knew something was wrong. As much as that may feel supportive it really doesn’t help and it makes parents feel even more inadequate that they don’t have a typical child. Our family was lucky to be able to hire a live-in caregiver that became a part of our family to give us breaks. Without having that kind of support I am not sure we would have survived as well as we have.
I only wish that I had this beautiful and fierce women, Shana Tibble Beach, on my team when my daughter was diagnosed. She is the real deal and fights everyday to help families move forward after an Autism diagnosis. After having a similar terrible experience like our family and feeling lost with what to do to help her son, she has turned her anger and energy into something positive for families of children with Autism by opening her own Autism consulting business in Vancouver – Quintessential Autism Consulting. I am so proud of her and everything that she is working towards.
Quintessential Autism Consulting – http://www.qautism.com
WE BELIEVE IN EACH AND EVERY CHILD DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM. OUR GOAL IS TO WORK WITH FAMILIES THROUGHOUT THE DIAGNOSIS PROCESS SO THAT EACH CHILD HAS THE BEST OPPORTUNITY TO REALIZE THEIR POTENTIAL, AND TO PROVIDE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE PARENTS HAVE THE SUPPORT THEY NEED IN ORDER TO MAKE THIS ACHIEVABLE .
RESPECT. We respect all individuals living with an ASD diagnosis. We recognize their abilities, their value and we believe in their potential.
EMPATHY. We appreciate that children on the spectrum share a different and unique perspective of the world. We recognize that in order to connect with these children we must understand this perspective.
UNDERSTANDING. We understand that the autism spectrum is vast and that each individual is affected differently. We therefore realize the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and customized treatment plan.
HOPE. We believe that treatment and recovery from the symptoms associated with an ASD diagnosis is possible. We believe that each child has the potential to live a quality and meaningful life and we are committed to participating, encouraging and mentoring this process.