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Kristen is a home­maker, home­schooler, and a home­keeper. Her experience includes nineteen years of practice, raising three kids, a husband, and a dog. Writing about her life helps her stay sane. She believes that sharing stories helps others by providing opportunities to share advice (and helpful hints) about homeschooling, and raising kids on the autism spectrum, while supporting marriages and families that are striving to thrive.

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Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.


Pink Owl

With it being autism awareness month, I wanted to write a few posts about living with autism in our family.  I can officially say I have two kids on the spectrum.  Some speculation about other family members being autistic is always there, too.  I kind of feel like I have developed a radar for seeing autism where others don’t see it at all.  It's like, a super-power... or it's just experience... anyway, I can see it. Everywhere. 
So, Tommy (our oldest) was diagnosed when he was five, but he had been in our county’s PIED program since he was about eighteen months old.  I get a lot of questions about how and when we (my husband and I) started to suspect any issues with Tommy’s development; after all, he was our first child, we didn't have experience with any other kids, we weren't teachers… So, how did we know?  Well, Tommy was born the same day as one of my friends’ twins.  So, as the twins started crawling, walking, talking, etc.  and Tommy wasn't doing any of those things, I became concerned because he was an “only” child, and he wasn't doing the things that the twins were doing.  I knew that oftentimes twin development can be a little slower, especially in the area of language.  Tommy eventually met most of those developmental milestones, and he wasn't so far delayed that he qualified to receive services, at first.  It wasn't until he was almost three that he qualified for speech, and then he qualified for the special education preschool once he turned three.  Tommy, by age three, was walking, and meeting a lot goals and benchmarks that his team wanted to see him meet, but he was behind in language, fine motor, and visual and auditory processing.  
We weren't really concerned that he was autistic until he developed language, when he was four years old.  With language came decreased eye contact and flapping.  Did it coincide with vaccines?  In hindsight, yes and no.  There was a lot going on from the age of one to two, and I know vaccines were part of the picture, but not the whole picture (and we can agree to disagree, agreeably... I don't have a platform about vaccines, I'm not anti-vaccine, I'm not pro-vaccine).  Tommy was also sick with strep and ear infections constantly after he turned one. Have you ever heard of PANDAS?  It's very, very interestting, and very hard to explain, and worth a Google search. Tommy has that.  Some of the medical community doesn't believe it exists.  We were fortunate to have the right doctor at the right time that totally diagnosed it for us.   It's so interesting, to me, how different autism looks to each individual family!  It's fascinating, really, to hear and study all the differences, and all the similarities, as well. 
For me, I actually felt validated when he was finally, officially diagnosed.  I really felt that once it had a name, I could understand what we were dealing with, and proceed from there.  I know that other people may feel very differently, but I was glad to be “in the know”.  With validation, for me, I could go through the grieving process, and move forward.  It's not that I was ever sad, per se, it's just that I had typical expectations for parenting, and that was all changed a bit with an autism diagnosis.  So, yes, there is a grieving period.  And, yes, it's OK to say that.  And, everyone in the family has to go through that at their own pace.  My acceptance and grieving looked much different than my husband’s did.  A lot of marriages, actually, don't survive special needs parenting, and I totally understand why.  For us, we have had to go through some very painful, and trying times, hard, hard conversations, and vast different ideas on how to deal with a wide range of topics… And that's just related to parenting Tommy.  Marriage, at best, is hard.  We truly believe we can't do marriage without God, let alone anything else that gets added in to life together, including parenting... including special needs, too.
So, fast forward twelve years.  My youngest was born when we were going through the diagnosis process for Tommy.  She came two weeks and one day early, and hit the world running, and has. not. once. slowed. down.  True story.  This girl is my “crazy Katie-cat”  and her Daddy’s “special K” and she is busy.  She is fearless when she should have fear, and horribly afraid of things that are unrealistic. She can do math in her head, but has a hard time with reading.  She loves minecraft, horses, gymnastics, and cats.
Let me let you in on a little secret:  when you’ve met a child with autism… you’ve met a child with autism.  That's it.  They are all so different. The spectrum looks so much different for girls, especially hyperactive, anxious, little girls...especially when she is the baby of the family, as well.   I’ll add, also, that having one with autism, and then suspecting you might have another with autism, does not mean that you are trying to pin a label on everything. Let me release you from that, please, because following your gut-feelings about the child that you live with may get you ahead in terms of therapies or medications your child could benefit from.  I really believe that knowing is half the battle.  So, this last fall, I insisted that she be evaluated by (the absolute best) our psychologist.  Not surprising, but again, very validating, she got diagnosed with autism, too.  She has a few of the same co-morbities (fancy-speak for things like ADHD, OCD, anxiety, oppositional defiance, etc. that occur with the autism) that Tommy has, and some new things we don't really have a lot of information about (but we are learning!). She is much higher functioning, and much more social than he is.  Like I said before, though, each case is its own case.  So,we're learning.  Knowledge is power.  It's a super power!
So, there is our diagnosis story- or a snapshot of it, anyway.  It's been a wild ride, to say the very least.  I've been fortunate to have a ton of support from friends and family, near and far.  I know that sounds cliche, but it's the truth! I've also been fortunate to find resources to include doctors and therapists who have listened, guided, and recommended strategies and tools to help us parent and raise our family well.
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The Table at St. George’s

The Table at St. George’s is a market-style food pantry serving the extended local community. Visitors are invited to select their own items from a variety of fresh food, including locally grown produce. The Table’s mission is to encourage healthy eating, build relationships with those in need, and blur the lines between those serving and those being served.