Despite the hardships we face, Autism Dads have one distinct advantage. It is an unfair advantage because it fills our hearts with never-ending pride, gives us great joy, and makes our lives so much easier. What is this magical advantage? It is our partners of course! We are married to Rock Star Autism Moms.
Autism Moms are as fierce as they are loving. They are as wise as they are brave, and as strong as they are gentle. Autism Moms are changing the very fabric of our society. Doctors are viewing autism differently, and health insurance companies are beginning to provide coverage for our kids. New treatment options are being discovered thanks in large part to the commitment of the Autism Mom. They are changing the school systems and discovering new ways to help their kids. Their unity is even changing laws across the country. Simply put, Autism Moms are changing the world.
The connection between Autism Moms knows no boundaries. It crosses all racial, social, economic, and educational barriers. They just seem to “get” one another. I believe it is because all Autism Moms possess 5 distinct traits. It is these traits that make them so special, and everyday, I thank my lucky stars for my 5 foot 3 inch Mama Bear.
#1 Autism Moms are Lovers
Each and every day Autism Moms shower their families with hugs, kisses, and unconditional love. It is a love that is so magnanimous (yes that is a word) that we Dads struggle to keep up. Not only does their love make our kids feel safe, secure, and accepted it also does the same for us Dads. I know I would not be the father I am today without the unwavering love and support of my wife. When I wake up in the morning, she is there, already awake, greeting me with a great big hug and kiss. I know she does the same with our kids. Whenever our kids are melting down or we Dads have a hard day, who is there to comfort us? Our rock star Autism Moms of course.
#2 Autism Moms are Fighters
Who makes health insurance companies shake when their phones ring? Who makes school principals and admin want to run and hide from their IEP meetings? Autism Moms that’s who! Typically, they are very peaceful and loving creatures. But, if you try to stand in the way of their kids getting the resources they need, you better be prepared for battle. There’s a reason why you’ve seen hundreds of Mama Bear Memes on Facebook. Hell hath no fury like an Autism Mom told her kid would not get service. They know what’s best for their kids, and they will do their very best to make sure their kids’ unique needs are met.
I remember when we were early in our autism journey. My wife called Blue Cross Blue Shield several times a day. I would hear her spouting specific laws to the clueless customer service rep on the other end. “Texas law 793 section C subparagraph 19 says…” Okay, I just made that up, but you get my point. Autism Moms often know more about the laws of their state better than the insurance companies phone reps. My wife eventually achieved such a reputation with BCBS that no one was able to talk to her except a higher level executive. She successfully got our son’s ABA covered 100% for over a year before they wised up and changed the policy.
Another example of the fortitude of Autism Moms comes from a good friend of mine. I won’t mention her name, as I haven’t gotten her permission to share this. When laws were beginning to be implemented that affected our kids on the autism spectrum, she leapt into action. I remember her simple, vague Facebook post, “Oh no. They are messing with the wrong Mama!” Next thing I knew, she was heading up one of the most influential lobbyist groups in the state of Texas. Needless to say, the power of the Autism Mom is clear.
#3 Autism Moms are Givers
While Autism Moms are some of the toughest fighters around, they are also some of the kindest and most generous people on the planet. We already know they give their hearts to their family and shower them with unconditional love. They also will give their time. Autism Moms will spend their day cleaning, cooking, and learning to prepare special allergy friendly recipes. Days are lost waiting on hold with insurance companies or calling OT, ABA, and speech therapists. Autism Moms will also spend an unreasonable amount of time reading, learning, and researching the latest on all things autism.
Moms take time to celebrate even the smallest of milestones with her kid. My wife will stop whatever she is doing when my son walks to her and says, “Mommy find da mote”. (this is how our son asks for a movie) She stops to celebrate and tell him what a good job he did talking. You see, most of the time, he will shout from the couch or scream from his room, so when he asks nicely, that is something that Mom feels should be recognized.
Autism Moms give to their kids in different ways.
Sometimes being a giving autism Mom means giving up your sleep. It’s unfortunate, but most kids with autism have troubles with sleep. Of course, it’s usually Mom that gives up her sleep to be with the kid who woke up for the day at 1am.
Sometimes being a giving Autism Mom means searching every nook and cranny and driving to every craft store in town looking for the 1-inch ladybug her son lost.
Other times, being a giving Autism Mom means sitting with your kid as they watch the same 3-minute YouTube clip for the 789th time that day.
Occasionally, being a giving Autism Mom means giving up all your patience. Although, just when you think you have no more patience to give, you miraculously find some more.
These incredible women will not just give all they can to their families. They will also stop in their tracks to come to the aid of a fellow Autism Mom in need. About an hour ago, I was reading through a thread on an autism Facebook group. A mom, who I will call Susie, was asking for suggestions for a local therapist for herself because she was overcome with guilt about her son. Susie said she was carrying this guilt for over 14 years, and she needed some help to cope.
A Perfect Example
Before I go any further, let’s just pause and talk about this Mom because Susie perfectly personifies why Autism Moms Rock. This woman is a freaking superstar! For the last 14 years, she has given her life for her son. She has done everything possible to find the right answers and to make sure the right supports are in place for her kid. Yet, Susie still feels like she should have done more. This strong woman has carried this burden and this guilt for over a decade. I told you Autism Moms are some of the toughest people around.
Now back to Facebook, when I read through this post it was 6 hours old. In 6 hours, there were already about 30 moms coming to Susie’s aid. Some offered suggestions to therapists that helped them while others offered words of encouragement and support. Some even offered to come meet her for coffee. The Autism Mom community is nothing short out astounding. This is not an uncommon sentiment from Moms, and it is not an uncommon show of support from other Moms. With everything going on in an individual Autism Mom’s life, they will drop everything if a member of the tribe is in need. Incredible!
#4 Autism Moms Are Worriers
Despite all they do for their families, the autism Mom will always wonder if they are doing enough. Remember Susie’s story? My wife is the same way. She will go through periods of remorse saying she should be doing this or that in addition to everything else she does. Of course, me being the supportive and loving husband, I say to her, OMG stop it. You’re being ridiculous. You do everything for us. How could you possibly be doing this or that in addition? Incredibly, she usually finds a way to do exactly what she wants to do. I don’t know how, but she does. They are unstoppable.
These moms don’t just worry about their kids on the spectrum. They start to question if they are doing enough for the other kids too. My wife often says things like, I never play with Kaitlyn or I need to read at night with Gavin again. Again, the supporting husband and father I am, I tell her she’s being silly. You just spent an hour playing with Kaitlyn this morning. Probably goes without saying, but again, somehow she finds a way to play more. She’s been reading with Gavin every night again, and they both really enjoy that time.
Despite being stretched so thinly with all the needs of autism, they somehow find a way to be a good Mom to their other kids as well. They find a way to connect with them and occasionally will find time for their spouse too. I know my wife and many other Moms always make it a point to have some husband/wife time. It’s important to them, so of course, they make it happen.
#5 Autism Moms are Warriors
A warrior is someone that faces great adversity, yet somehow perseveres. When your child is diagnosed with autism, it is devastating for both Mom & Dad. Yet, instead of being knocked down and wallowing in self-pity, many Moms spring into action. Determined to help their kid become the best version of themselves possible, Autism Moms begin the long process of self-education.
How can they help their kids? What is available? What options do they have? Which are the real options and which are just snake oil? They have to teach themselves everything about autism. While most Dads are stuck on the floor after diagnosis, Moms are busy making things happen for their kids.
Dad Stuck in Neutral while Mom is in Overdrive
In my situation, I actually knew something was wrong before my wife, but I could not do anything about it. I didn’t even know what to do. Did I start looking for ways to help him? NO, I shut down and was severely depressed during this time. She thought everything was okay, and it took her nearly a year to realize our son probably did have autism. Once she did, it was full steam ahead. As I was still processing the situation, my wife had evaluations scheduled at school and for speech, occupational, and physical therapies. We had appointments to tour several ABA therapy centers, and she was already starting to pester the health insurance companies. All this happened within a week’s time.
Why Wouldn’t We
We even started the gluten free diet before our son was ever diagnosed. I remember asking her, “Are we really gonna do the gluten free thing?” She looked at me and emphatically said, YES! WHY WOULDN’T WE! If there is a chance it can help Ethan, why wouldn’t we try gluten free. It’s not going to hurt him to not eat wheat, so why not.” My wife said this which such angst I never ever questioned it, and we have not looked back since. I’ve become the driver in terms of diet and looking into medical options, but if it were not for her convictions we may have never started. Likely, our son would need medication to control his aggressive behaviors had we not started the holistic path.
Autism Moms persevere through every obstacle autism throws at them. Extreme sleep deprivation, sickness after sickness, smeared poop on the walls of their kid’s bedrooms (repeatedly), hostile school environments, and uncooperative insurance companies will not stop these warriors from helping their kids. In the early days, my wife would go to work, after only a couple hours sleep, with real bruises and scratches from our son’s hyper aggressive behaviors. She is a special education teacher who was teaching kids with severe autism. She dealt with her students throwing desks and books around the class all day only to come home and work with our son. My wife would hop on the phone to Blue Cross as soon as she got home. Battered, bruised, & tired my Warrior Wife kept going.
Room to Give
To make these Moms even more amazing, many of them choose to start helping other Moms too. They write books, start blogs, & local support groups. Organizations like Generation Rescue, TACA, and the Thinking Moms Revolution all had Autism Moms involved with their creation. TACA now has local chapters in 23 states all thanks to these warrior moms. Despite everything they have been through, Autism Moms have enough strength to help out others.
My wife as incredible as she is continues to impress me. We just moved to St Louis, and now she really wants to start a local TACA chapter. Here she is: just starting a new job with a new school. We are busy searching for the perfect house to buy and start our own little homestead. We also have 3 kids of our own. Yet somehow, she has enough room in her heart and tenacity somewhere inside her that she wants to start a new local Autism community to help others. I tell her there is no way we can do it right now, but again, it’s important to her. This past week, she held the first ever St Louis TACA Coffee Talk, and she is trying to find a way to make this happen. I just can’t believe it.
Autism Moms are True Warriors
By now, you know that Autism Moms are strong. No matter where they are in the autism journey, they are fighting to break down barriers for their kids. When something is important to them, they will not stop until they make it happen. These ladies are fierce Warriors. They will never give up. They will never stop learning what may help their kids and will continue to fight the good fight. Sure, they may meltdown and have a good cry in the bathroom when no one is around, but they will always pull themselves back up and keep going. The next time you see an Autism Mom give them a polite smile and acknowledge their resilience. Hell, stand at attention and salute them. God knows, They Deserve It!