This is the third installment in a three-part series, where one mother relates her family’s journey to accept and understand Annie’s Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. You can read “Part 1: Annie’s Autism Diagnosis” and “Part 2: Understanding Annie’s Sensory Processing Disorder” by clicking the posts’ titles. We pick up the story below after Annie has begun therapies and treatments in the family’s new Texas home.
One of the most frustrating parts of Autism is that one treatment might work for one child, but it will do very little for another child the same age. I definitely get burnt out researching new treatments and studies, but I try to stay informed about what is out there. No parent would ever want to see his or her child regress — but it happens.
I can’t tell you how I would feel if Annie regressed, as I can only imagine, but I want to encourage others to never give up hope. If you are doing all that you can for your child, then you have no reason to doubt yourself. Sometimes we do not get the outcome we hoped for, but your efforts are never wasted.
Raising our daughter has been really challenging at times, but also very rewarding. When I realized that I wasn’t the smartest person in her life and allowed others to come into my home and teach me how to help her, I started making a difference too. I learned about her disorder by reading books and going to Autism websites, but I also observed all of her therapy sessions. I watched how they interacted with Annie, and I asked a lot of questions. I am sure they couldn’t wait for me to stop talking, but they gave me a lot of advice. They told me that I should not let her develop repetitive, running patterns in the house and that she should not have seven water cups at the table. I had a tendency to let her do whatever she wanted in order to avoid a meltdown, but they quickly recommended I treat her just like my other kids. Little by little I grew to know a lot about Annie’s behavior. I poured my heart and soul into helping our daughter, but consequently, I had to give up prior commitments which led to my social life really suffering.
It was definitely worth the sacrifice, but in a perfect world, I would have loved to go to lunch with my girlfriends or to go hit a bucket of golf balls in the evening like I had before. I had experienced lonely seasons in my life, but this was the loneliest. I wanted people to immediately understand the pain and anger I felt. I now realize my expectations were unrealistic. I treated the ones I loved with the most hostility because I knew they loved me enough to forgive me later. It wasn’t right; it wasn’t fair. I worked through those feelings to get to the other side, otherwise that pain would always be there ready to steal my joy. I believe that God used this time in my life to draw me closer to Him, and He definitely led our family to a place where I could find my joy again.
We moved to the Fort Worth area in June 2015. We found an excellent school for Annie, and a facility that offered ABA therapy in our home. She also does speech and occupational therapy. Annie started using more words. She is much more aware of her surroundings, and she loves to spend time with her sisters. We take each day as they come and have learned to rejoice in all of her accomplishments, great or small. Annie is coming together, “piece by piece,” in her own beautiful way, in her own precious time. I am so proud of her, and all she has accomplished this year.
That said, I never stop advocating for her. I want our little girl to keep going and thriving, and I want the people in her life to want that for her as well. Her happiness is so important to me. Because a three-year-old little girl is not going to understand why she has to do “therapy” all day every day, I want her to have fun while she is learning to use her words and express her feelings. I want her to enjoy her life, like my other children, and feel confident in herself. As a mom, I have pushed for the therapy and insisted on the insurance coverages, but I have to also remind myself to make sure she is smiling through these experiences. Don’t get me wrong: There are lots of tears and meltdowns that comes with behavioral intervention, but as a mom, you just know when enough is enough.
It has taken me more than a year to feel the joy in my sorrow. No, I am not joyful that Annie is Autistic, but I do find joy in her sweet personality, behaviors, and obsessions. I get frustrated at times, but I do with all my kids. Annie’s world is really beautiful. She is creative and imaginative, and, while I don’t understand exactly why she is so intrigued with a leaf, it makes me think that I must be missing out.
When we go back to New Mexico, I am excited to see our family and friends, but there is also a part of me that feels overwhelmed about all the emotions I had when we lived there. I am reminded of the helplessness and the isolated feeling of despair because I couldn’t reach my daughter. I feel that despair and sadness hit me again, but then it turns into the hope we have found the right path to help Annie.
We all go through various obstacles to capture the best in our children. Motherhood can be challenging and so very painful, but, when you stop and think about all you have gone through for your child, I hope you feel proud. Feel encouraged that your child’s tutoring is going to pay off for spring semester finals. Feel the hope in taking your child to one more therapy session, as it really might work. Feel excited when your child scores a goal because you paid for his private coaching that led to his first year of making the team. No matter the triumph, big or small, it is always a victory. It’s okay to celebrate those moments as if you won the lottery; it took a lot to get there. Feel proud, because . . . . We are really proud of Annie!
The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts the online Moms of Special Needs Kids Tarrant County Area Group, as part of the Neighbor Groups offerings. This is a safe, supportive place where local moms can discuss special needs issues and questions with one another. It’s simple and free to join!
Morgan was born in Roswell, New Mexico, where she grew up with her older sister just outside the small town’s city limits. She attended New Mexico State University where she studied Journalism and Mass Communications. Morgan and Ryan, her husband of eight years have three daughters — Evelyn (2009), Annie (2012), and Scarlett (2014). Morgan enjoys getting to be with all her girls and watching them grow each day. When Morgan is not with her family, she enjoys spending time with friends and golfing with her husband. After her daughter was diagnosed with Autism in 2014, Morgan and her husband decided to move to Texas to find better services for their daughter. In June of 2015, this party of five arrived in Keller, Texas, where they now live. Morgan loves to explore Fort Worth, and take her kids to the wonderful zoo and other kid friendly attractions the city offers. When she has time, Morgan enjoys shopping online, wine tasting, and writing, but in no particular order.