One day I went to sleep in one world and the next day I awoke in another. That day was April 8, 1980; the day my first son was born. Like most mothers-to-be, I looked forward to the birth of a first child. For me, his birth was a happy-sad moment. He was born with birth defects and developmental differences.
Over the next eight years, my son had thirteen surgeries. He was my firstborn, but I had babysat other people’s children for many years and I knew that something else other than his obvious physical disabilities was also wrong. He simply did not act like any other child I had ever babysat and his development was also quite different.
I ask doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist, “Why does he behave the way he behaves?” Most of them just blamed me for his behavior. The kind ones were very honest and told me they didn’t know.
Finally, sometime in the early 1990’s, I began to suspect he was somewhere on the autism spectrum. An accurate diagnosis was not easy to obtain. Every day in school was a struggle for him and a nightmare for our whole family. Participating in normal community activities, such as eating out or going to church were always problematic, if not impossible. I knew I needed outside help to teach me how to parent this child.
In 1992, I was introduced to the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and received my first in-home behavior-training program. This was the beginning of a long journey of learning about autism and finding solutions for my son and my family. I began to meet other people along the way who taught me important keys to parenting a child with an autism spectrum disorder.
I have been so blessed to study with some of the finest advocates: Marsha Forest, Judith Snow, Michael Delaney, Ann Turnbull, Vince Carbone and Michelle Garcia Winner.
I have dedicated my life to helping other parents learn the tools that were taught to me. Thirty one years later, I am still teaching these tools to other parents, so they help their children with disabilities grow up to be successful and productive adults.