Autism Acceptance/Awareness/Appreciation/Advocate/Applaud Month- This April is the 6th year that we have celebrated this month!
Our sweet Jessa was diagnosed on April 1, 2017, at the young age of 3 ½, and yes, I was hoping the Neurologist would have said “April Fools” after the diagnosis.
The first year of diagnosis was full of trials and tribulations, research, and countless evaluations to get the help we needed. It was EXHAUSTING. There were so many phone calls, having to repeat yourself, and be reminded every phone call that your daughter’s just been diagnosed with Autism. I think that year I must’ve cried enough to fill a lake.
At the same time, we had a nonverbal child trapped in a little body trying to communicate her needs and wants. As her parents, it was tough to have no idea what she needede. Talk about feeling helpless. You feel like you’re failing.
The first year after the diagnosis was not for the weak. I didn’t think there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily, I have a husband who’s a fantastic father and a sweet 15-year-old (at the time) that loves her Sissy dearly, and as a family, we started this journey.
The second year was full of Acceptance. It was accepting the diagnosis and all the therapies that come with it. We accepted that our daughter wouldn’t ever be in that spelling bee or student of the month. Accepting that sometimes we would have to separate as a family, Jessa and Joel would stay home while I kept up with the busy teenager.
Having to take Jessa to therapies, Nichole (my oldest) to all of her activities, and work was a juggling act I don’t recommend. One thing that I could not accept were the sleepless nights. We somehow survived with the help of coffee and some happy hours. I would always joke around, saying, “boy do I wish I could go back and take those naps I hated as a kid.”
Year three was 2019, and full of Awareness! Everyone around was fully aware that our child had Autism. Jessa flapped her arms, loved to spin in circles, had no personal bubble, was in the process of being potty trained, and covered her ears when things got too loud. She had this unbearable scream. She dropped to the floor; you name it-we lived it!
These characteristics and behaviors were not easy to deal with, but let me tell you, it sure brought Awareness, and I was constantly apologizing for my daughter. Now looking back, I shouldn’t have been apologizing. We were living our life.
So even though we got a lot of stares and finger-pointing, I ensured that people were AWARE that this was AUTISM.
We also started doing fun, positive Awareness activities in the community and with our family and friends. That year we had our most giant “Team Jessa” for the Annual Autism walk we began participating in. We put Jessa on a local Special Needs Cheer Team; Jessa was the youngest on the team and was their mascot; her group participation wasn’t her best, but we tried. This year, we’re trying out baseball with the Austin Miracle League and we’re so excited!
In our 4th year of our jouney, I was happy to say I Appreciate Autism.
I’m a better person because of this; I have learned strength, perseverance, agility, compassion, and, most important, that LOVE NEEDS NO WORDS. I appreciate all the relationships that I’ve made because of Autism. I have found some fantastic friends with kiddos like Jessa, and I highly recommend trying to find your squad/tribe. It makes this life a little bit easier. I also learned how to Appreciate life more because of Autism, this lesson could have come with age, but I’ll let Autism take the credit.
Then in our 5th year, it was all about ADVOCATING for AUTISM.
- Stop the Stigma
- Show your Support
- Socialize with Someone on the Spectrum
- Stride for Inclusion
- Share your Story
I also took Master I.E.P. classes to help me understand the I.E.P. and learn more about our voices as parents regarding education, services, and inclusion. This allowed us to have the courage to enroll Jessa back in public school and get her the assistance she needed to be successful in a school setting.
Last year I was privileged to be more involved in the special needs community. I made incredible connections and lifetime lifelines! That part of Autism has been my favorite so far. Being a voice for others is so fulfilling and rewarding for me. I never thought that Autism would help me serve my purpose and build these connections. I’m blessed to be Jessa’s Advocate and all others on this journey.
This year is our 6th year of Autism, a year of APPLAUSE.
I am so proud of our girl. She has overcome so many obstacles this year. I applaud her for all that she has conquered. She uses complete sentences to communicate with us after we are told she would never use her words. Jessa is participating in several extracurricular activities that she enjoys doing after years of trying and not being successful. The list goes on, and this girl is on FIRE!
I applaud her teachers, therapists, doctors, and all others that have impacted her life. We wouldn’t have accomplished this much without all who invested their time with her.
I applaud all those I have met who have inspired me to share my story and remind me that I am not alone.
I applaud those living in similar situations; I know it isn’t easy.
I know the future will still have obstacles, trials and tribulations, dark days, and happy days, but I can’t wait to learn more about Autism, see Jessa’s accomplishments, and continue to cheer her on in all she does. I know I’m still not done growing and learning as a Special Needs Mom. I hope to continue to tell our story, educate others about Autism, and share our Joy!
So even though it’s not always easy, I’m very Accepting, Aware, Appreciative, and Advocate and Applaud of/for AUTISM.
For more about our story, visit joyofjessa.com