Vanessa’s story: My experience raising two children with autism

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“If you meet one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.” It’s a simple yet critical quote that I especially understand as a mom with two children on the spectrum, Kane and Emma.

Experiencing autism with Kane

My oldest was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was 5-years-old. There were several stages I went through once I got the ASD diagnosis from the doctor.

Denial was first because, let’s face it, my child is perfect the way he is. I love his quirks and his individuality that makes him unique from others. I love that he loves to line up his cars and trains and inspects them so closely with such incredible detail.

Mother’s guilt and the stages of emotions

Smiling boy Kane smiling at the camera, at age 8.

But then came the mom guilt. What did I do wrong? Did I not eat healthy enough? Did I eat more than the recommended amount of fish I was allowed to have? Was it because sometimes I forgot to take my prenatal pills?

I often wondered about all the ways I may have somehow failed my child.

Then came the worst stage of all. The feelings of being lost, confused, and fearful.

There is so much information out there about autism; it’s overwhelming. From the types of services they may need, to understanding the terminology and seeking the proper care.

You research like hell to get them on the right path because with ASD, early intervention is key.

Then comes my favorite stage, what I call the “momma bear” stage. This is when you are ready for whatever life will throw your way. You are a warrior ready to fight and get access to all the available resources to help your child and provide them with a proper education.

Our children are entitled to experience education in the “least restrictive environment” which means your child will be placed with his peers in a general education setting. This, for me, is one of the greatest achievements in my journey and absolutely worth fighting for.

Emma’s very different ASD experience

Mon and daugther Vanessa Grissinger holding Emma, age 3.

My daughter was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

I caught it earlier on, as my suspicions began when she was around 18-months-old because of my experience with Kane. However, Emma had hit all her milestones such as walking and talking earlier than my other two children.

Slowly but surely, however, she began to regress.

I noticed her lack of eye contact, her sensitivity to sound and touch. And most importantly, she started to go silent. Her speech regressed. I went through all the stages again: denial, concern, and guilt.

Emma’s needs are also more demanding than my son’s and more intense.

Despite my experience with Kane, I feel that this is still my first rodeo.

I’ve learned no two autism stories are alike. Research, early intervention, and talking to your pediatrician are key. And always remember, you’re not alone.

Get the help you need specifically for your child

They say “knowledge is power,” so I am starting a new program with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). 

The organization uses applied behavior analysis (ABA) in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.

Through this organization, I am receiving virtual parent training to learn techniques and tips at home.

This is one of the newest methods I am trying out for my children, and perhaps the organization can be helpful to you as well. But like my Kane and Emma, each child is unique and require their own plan for therapy.

Open yourself up to the journey

The road for families living with ASD undoubtedly has some setbacks, difficult moments, tears, and moments of despair, but never lose hope.

There are moments when you feel alone and lost, but you will also have moments of “small” achievements that are, in fact, monumental! You will feel like you have won the lottery, and you have, because you are blessed with this amazing individual, or for me, individuals to celebrate and love.

For any questions on raising children with autism, you can reach me as a light of support by emailing me at [email protected].

I’m not a doctor, just a passionate, informed parent. You can also go to Autismspeaks.org for support and resources that can help you.

-By Vanessa Grissinger

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