Since having a non verbal child Maira has sought out as much information and support that she can. She tells me what programs have helped Kennedie and her family the most.
"Through the county, we were given an iPad mini to use as her communication device. There's a program called PECS (picture exchange communicative system) on it, it's locked to only have that program available to use (so it can't used recreationally). She uses pictures to form sentences, express feelings, ask for things, start dialogue, etc.. I've heard mixed reviews of this system from experts. You don't want her only relying on this program to communicate and you hope it doesn't discourage her from speaking but I haven't had any of these problems. She knows it's much easier and quicker to verbalize "I eat yogurt", than having to type it out and find it on the iPad. The iPad helps her with expressing feelings through pictures that she can choose. We also get Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy through the school which is helpful. There are some really amazing people in the public school system that don't get the credit they deserve. We live in Orlando, FL and there are tons of local resources for kids with autism as well as organizations on a national level. We are specifically active with Autism Society of greater Orlando. We also participate in a special needs Pop Warner Cheerleading team and soccer team. There a lots of events for kids, you just have to search for them in your area. One thing that I often hear is that the support drastically reduces as the kids turn into adults. Once they graduate and are out of school there isn't a whole lot for autistic adults to do, however I'm noticing a change. A lot more businesses are opening up to hiring people on the spectrum and realizing they can be an asset to the company. I also found support on a podcast recently, called Autastic. It's two comedians, one has an adult brother who is autistic and the other a 16 year old son with autism. And they are hilarious. I definitely recommend them."
On a normal day, Kennedie rides the bus to school. Pick up and drop offs are right in front of Mairas house even living within the 2 mile radius of the school. (In Orlando if you live within a two mile radius you either have to walk or have a pick up/drop off) The school district offers this to them because it's risky for them to walk her to school. When she gets home she has quiet time, a snack and this is usually free iPad time where she watches her YouTube kids videos. Sometimes there's soccer practice, or cheerleading practice, or the gym. Then it's home time, eat dinner, a bath or shower, and then goes to bed. It's a simple day, filled with routine.
" Going by routine she is my easiest kid. Very mellow and never fights with me about any of her daily obligations. She definitely prefers her routine but if something comes up she adapts very easily, which is not common among autistics."
For Maira, a Mama to 3 little girls her life was changed with each child. Kennedie being diagnosed with autism started down a new parenting road. And that road is traveled often these days as 1 in 68 children are affected with autism. As is with anyone who has a child who has a disability there is plentiful "advice" and opinions on how to do things or even why a child could be disabled.
"There are so many misconceptions about autism. Some people don't believe it exists and think it's a behavioral problem (that drives me crazy), or the parent doesn't discipline enough (that is just bogus). Some people think vaccines are what causes it, some think it's GMOs or something you ate while pregnant, I've heard of everything." Asking Maira what can someone on the outside can do to help, she says "being there, listening to the specific needs and struggles of the moment, asking to lend a hand when you can see that person needs help." And in turn Maira has also learned that talking about her feelings and accepting help when she needs it helps her too.
Maira doesn't know where her path of mommy hood will lead with Kennedie. I do know that because of the support she has built around her and her family great things will come for them and she is leading the way as a Badass Mama.
National Support Groups