Many thanks! Too many to count!

Being a mom of special needs children comes with great responsibility.  Your whole life changes and you have to relearn to parent if you already have a typically developed child, which in my case, I do!  You enter this pit of despair after the diagnosis and you become suffocated with IEP meetings, new terminologies, and therapists in and out of your life. Most of your personal life has to take a back seat in order for you, as a parent, to fully grasp the situation at hand. You feel like nothing will change, that you'll be unhappy and forever alone.

Thoughts like that could never be more wrong.  The following has shown me that I have an abundance of support from all walks of life and I've been too blind to see it.

In December, Daniel and Chloe participated in a photo shoot for a special needs issue of Parents Magazine that would come out in April 2014.  Like all of the children that participated, there was a chance that they would be on the cover! So, of course, I had to hope for the best and just be appreciative for the opportunity if it didn't work out.

I got the call from the editor of Parents Magazine, Dana Points, in February.
(Big sister Adriana)

My initial reaction ranged from hysterically crying, (which I choked down), or shouting for joy, (might have scared the kids). So I remained calm on the outside as the editor told me the news over the phone.

To say that I was in total shock was an understatement! In a few weeks, everyone would see two faces of perseverance, of strength, of family, of autism.  There they were! Two little Puerto Rican kids from the Bronx splashed on the cover for the world to see. 

People have a preconceived notion of autistic children.  I know I did.  I remember the first time I heard of autism. It was way back when All My Children, my favorite soap in those days, introduced the character of Lily.  She was portrayed as distant, stoic, and unemotional.
Autism is a spectrum with many different behaviors, skill levels and nonverbal vs verbal. Each child is different from the next, like snowflakes. Beautiful and different. 

Chloe and Daniel are prime examples of two kids from the same family exhibiting completely different skill sets despite both being diagnosed with autism. The most obvious is gender, of course.  Autism affects girls too. And while people who see the cover may think that Chloe in not autistic because she's showing the world her pearly whites, her picture captures my exact point; each autistic child is different.
And Daniel's 'blank look" as some chose to phrase it in their comments of the picture?  He is a pensive boy, a quiet calm, strong and silent. I've never referred to him having a "blank look" and neither should anyone else.

What I hope this magazine will do is change people's perception of autistic children and of all special needs children.  The only difference between a special needs child is that their needs are different from typical children.  And like all children, they require love, patience and a strong family.

And if we, as parents, don't change our own perceptions about our special needs child, who are we to demand it of others.  We have to be courageous enough to yes, be strong for our children, but to also teach them to be strong for themselves.  We are their role models. Let's show them their worth!

Thank you to everyone who continues to support Daniel and Chloe and treating them like kids. If you'd care to meet them, come on over. They love meeting new people!!
And an extra special thanks to Parents Magazine and its staff for continued support to all children and allowing Daniel and Chloe this memorable cover for them to cherish forever!

(The Fontanez Family; my big brother)


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