Back to the beginning


When my son Daniel was first diagnosed with Autism in May 2010, it was a heartbreaking event.  At the time, I was a mom of two, Adriana is older than Daniel by 2 and a half years, and pregnant with my third child, Chloe.  I didn't know much about autism but I knew that our lives as we knew it was about to change in a way that I couldn't imagine.

Back when I first found out I was having a boy in 2008, it was such a happy time.  We had the much sought after child set, a girl and a boy.  Our dreams for each child was already picked out like many parents do when they learn of a pregnancy and they fast forward into their child's future.  For Daniel, my husband envisioned an athletic life with endless scholarships and many girlfriends.  Our son would be a playboy but maintain his studies so that one day he would be able to provide for his future wife and children.  But life had other plans for Daniel, and his struggles in this world would begin at the tender age of 2.

What first triggered my instinct that there was a problem was that Daniel had not spoken a word. Sure, you hear the old, "Boys develop later than girls" speech but as a mother and a professional in the education system, I knew Daniel needed to be evaluated.

Imagine my surprise when my worst fears were confirmed on that beautiful Memorial Day when the psychologist handed my family the faithful blow; "Your child is autistic."  I immediately shut myself off from everyone, my husband, my family and my friends.  I needed to sort this out for myself and understand what was going on with my son, and how as a mother, I would be able to help him maneuver through this world that was already filled with craziness, heartache and confusion.

My son is nonverbal.  He communicates through pictures and gestures but has no words. He has high sensory issues which means that he is prone to seeking self stimulating behaviors aka stimming, i.e., rocking back and forth while sitting, punching himself in the head, pressing hard objects into his body, endlessly spinning.  He has trouble sleeping everyday, he screams loudly at any given time when he feels uncomfortable and he does not interact with his peers.  

The hardest part for us, me especially, is the fact that he doesn't speak.  I don't think I can accurately describe how my heart breaks each day knowing that my child does not speak and wondering if he ever will. So as we try to make sense of all this, read books, talk to therapists, social workers, teachers, what happens next blows us out of the water:  my youngest Chloe is diagnosed with PDD-NOS, which is one of the disorders on the Autism spectrum. So now we juggle two special needs children and a normally developed child who feels left out because she is too young to understand what it all means.

Being a parent is hard work and being a special needs parent is harder.  It takes a toll on your life in ways you can't imagine.  You blame yourself as a mother because you think, "Maybe I should've eaten better, exercised more". As a father, you feel you have failed to protect your family even with situations that are out of your control.  

Upon a child's diagnosis with Autism, the behavior and their learning capabilities are not the same. Every single child you meet that is autistic or on the autism spectrum is different from the next.  Chloe, who is also nonverbal, is able to grasp concepts, she has great memorization, she's social, and she has no stimming issues as of yet.

At first, I cried everyday. I didn't want to talk about it or accept this new life carved out for us. I prayed it was a mistake, but it was all too real each day I woke up.  These two beautiful children would learn at an early age that life wasn't fair and that they would be labeled as different by those that didn't know any better.  They would have people in their lives would leave them with an explanation.  Your marriage suffers a great deal due to an added stress to everyday life that would be with you to carry each day.  You have to learn to combat asinine questions about your child's diagnosis but have to learn not to take things so personally because that's how life goes, not everyone is an expert on every subject.

As of today, I would say our family is strong as steel.  My husband and I have learned how to cope with this life our children were given and lean on each other for support. My tears don't fall as much as they used to and I'm able to talk about this part of my life freely and with pride.  



My kids have come a long way since they were first diagnosed.  We have learned to take things day by day and we continue to create a happy home for our three children.  Nothing is off limits, they are exposed to everything and when things become uncomfortable for them, we are there to make sure that they know that they are safe and supported.  I have a built a wonderful support system within my family and friends that have taken time in their lives to learn about Autism and spread awareness.  And those that have chosen to walk away, they are not welcomed back into our lives.

When all is said and done, the moral to the Molina story is this: Do not mourn the life you thought you were supposed to live, celebrate the life that is given to you and is truly yours. 

Comments

  1. This is such a beautiful story. You are doing an amazing job!

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