Wow! It is hard to believe. My personal journey with Autism began with the birth of Evilasio Da Paz, Jr. on September 5, 2005. Little did I know that 2 years later, he would receive an Autism diagnosis. I always go back to the very first time that he stopped giving me consistent eye contact. My heart was racing because deep down, I knew what that meant. Being an Autism professional who began working with children with Autism as a sophomore at Stanford and then a decade as an inclusion specialist and in-home therapist, I knew what that meant. All of my Autism knowledge came pouring to the forefront. For the next 6 years, I stopped working and focused solely on him. I volunteered in his pre-school classroom. I volunteered in his Kinder classroom. I used all my know-how to help him. Words started to come when he was 4 years old. Still, we experienced many extreme meltdowns due to inability to communicate, but we pushed through. It was certainly different to be a parent of a child on the spectrum as opposed to a professional. I saw the gaps in resources and the unmet needs and lack of attention given to parents and their well-being. Navigating for him became a mission that soon spilled over to helping others on their journey as well. This catapulted me into a Health Psychology PhD program and a Behavior Analysis Masters program, all at the same time. My ultimate goal, create a place for parents to receive the support they need while also helping their children diagnosed with Autism. Goal accomplished – CARES™ Consulting. None of this would have happened without him, my Evilasio. His journey placed me firmly into my purpose.
Now, he is fifteen. The teenage years are becoming another chapter in my Autism journey. I am learning so much about his desire to be independent, just like any other teenager. However, sprinkle hormones and Autism together, and you get quite a combination. Needless to say, it has been a little rocky (blog posts to come). His emotions are extreme, with the same underlying theme – the need to be independent! This shows up by hundreds of dollars of movie purchases, threats of calling CPS because he lost his computer privileges after physically expressing his anger and hurting both Mom and Dad. Telling me to leave his room or to stop hovering over his shoulder as he ‘works’ on his computer – “I’m busy!” he says. Still, I embrace the communication. There were times that I did not know if he would talk to me or call me Mommy or tell me how he feels. Just yesterday, he wanted to do the shopping for his birthday. He was so grown-up. He pushed the cart, made decisions about his birthday menu, and even scanned the items in the self-checkout aisle.
What really got me was running into a teacher he had for pre-school – the tumultuous years! This is when he tore up classrooms, smacked teachers, did not use his words (actually, did not have words), and yet, the other kids called him “the smart boy” because he could physically identify all his letters, numbers, and colors, but did not say one word. She passed by and said, “Hi.” I told her, this is Evilasio. She was super shocked! He was taller than her. He stood with such grace and looked her directly in the eyes. She said, “Hi” and he softly replied back, “Hi” while continuing to look at her. It was simply marvelous and poetic even to have this happen on the eve of his 15th birthday. We have come a loooong way!!
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