No Milestone Left Uncelebrated: A Note on Being an Autism Mom
Octane is built on authentic communities and founded on acts of selfless service. Mothers of May is a month long celebration of moms from all aspects of life. By hosting a space for ‘each one teach one’ women share their own unique perspectives and lessons of motherhood.
By Cicely N. Carter
When I was first thrust into the realm of special needs parenting, I feel like many of the articles I was able to find about being a special needs parent or Autism mom specifically we’re a little bit gloom and doom. Of course they spoke to hope and how the diagnosis is not the end of the world, but I didn’t find too many people who were truly celebratory. They celebrated their children of course, but no one truly took hold of the special needs parent title and embraced it. I now realize it may have been because at the root of it all, we are all still moms. No less than other moms, just different.
We are now almost 7 years into Liam’s diagnosis and I will say that the challenges we face today and the hope I feel for Liam’s future are a stark contrast to how we started out. I did not know what Autism really was at the time, but I do remember feeling very sad and grieving for the normal life I thought he would never have. Here he is turning 10 later this year and living his best life. Of course he and we have faced struggles and obstacles, but from some of the things I heard along our journey, the outlook wasn’t very good.
I remember when he was about 3 and ½ years old and we went to a meeting about SSI because as a single parent who worked and was in school, I still needed additional income to help pay for daycare and to meet our daily needs. As a part of the SSI application process, they send you to a third-party agency to do a psychological evaluation. Much of Autism diagnoses and evaluations are done simply by observation. The woman who gave him the third-party diagnosis, also told me that he almost certainly had ADHD and I should probably get that checked on and get him medicated for that as well. I remember seething internally and believing that there was some sort of racial or cultural bias because all the things I had read and observed from him at that point said nothing about ADHD. I ignored what she had to say and at 9 years old, there is still no ADHD diagnosis and Liam is not on any medications.
Being Liam’s mom has made me grow and expand into roles I never knew I would take on. I have become Liam’s number one advocate. If I don’t believe something is pertinent to him or relevant for the challenges he faces, I speak up and say something. Although he is the one experiencing Autism and I am the one on the outside looking in, I have to use both my mom intuition and my knowledge of my child to make the most informed decision that I can about his life. Turning into an advocate has also given me strength and confidence in myself and in other areas.
While so often the focus on the struggle of Autism parenting, there is so much joy that Liam experiences in his life and joy that he brings to mine.
Due in part to Autism and to heredity, Liam speaks his mind and holds nothing back. He has said some things that have put me in slightly awkward situations, but it’s really nothing that I haven’t been able to laugh off and get over. Liam took his first international trip at 6 to the Bahamas and I’m not even sure he had one meltdown that entire trip. That was such huge progress for him. He got on a plane, we stayed at an Airbnb and then we boarded a huge cruise ship. Everything except the plane ride was completely new to him. He scaled that obstacle without a hitch.
There was the time a year and a half ago that Liam decided to play basketball for the first time. Although he complained about going to practice, he got better at dribbling and shooting and towards the end was finally engaged in the game. He decided not to continue his future NBA career, but I applaud him for trying because it was his first time doing a team sport and I know it caused him a lot of anxiety.
If being an Autism mom has done nothing else for me, it has made me appreciate and celebrate every milestone no matter how small.
Every single time Liam shows progression and overcomes an obstacle, I am his biggest cheerleader. I want him to know that there is cause to celebrate every triumph. I have experienced this life with him right by his side. I can’t be everywhere, I can’t know everything and I can’t ever see thing through his eyes, but I can be the support he needs. If that’s all I was ever meant to do on this Earth, I am more than happy that I was divinely chosen as his mom.
Cicely is a mom, a graduating nurse student, MUA and blogger behind @bougiebeautybabe. When not the co-host of the #MoreThanGraphics podcast Cicely is raising curiosity and exploration within her beloved son Liam. Follow her on Instagram.