World Autism Awareness Day | My Story as an Autism Mom


Happy World Autism Awareness Day!

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that can impair the ability to communicate and interact. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, difficulties in social interaction and communication and repetitive behaviors.

Did you know that 1 in 36 children in the USA have autism? (About 4 in 100 boys and 1 in 100 girls have autism in the USA). Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. The average age of an autism diagnosis is 4 years old. About 25% of children with autism are nonverbal. Autism is more prevalent in certain racial and ethnic groups, including white children, Hispanic children, and non-Hispanic black children. 49% of individuals with autism engage in elopement behavior (running or wandering away). People on the spectrum are 40 times more likely to die from preventable injuries.

(There’s a new movie on Netflix that addresses eloping called Tyson’s Run. I highly suggest this and bawled through it because it hits so close to home for me.)

My son was around two years old when the pediatrician had a feeling that he might be a little different. When he started pre-k, the teachers had the same inkling. He was nonverbal at this time and had a hard time understanding situations and transitioning to new situations. He would only eat Goldfish and drink apple juice . . . nothing else. Even if I put different foods in front of him every mealtime, he had no interest.

I felt defeated because I had no clue what was happening. Was I a bad mother? Did I not cook enough balanced meals or eat enough food when I was pregnant? Did I spend too much time inside or on my phone?

It was so helpful for me to reach out for support through doctors, therapists, and other families. Here are some of my recommendations for parents.

World Autism Awareness Day | My Story as an Autism MomGet a Diagnosis and Find Support

My son’s three year old well-child doctor’s appointment was followed by a hearing test, a vision test, an autism test, and referrals to therapies. I was nervous for every test and every appointment. We are still on an autism testing wait list for UNM Hospital (three years so far). My son can see and hear perfectly. We began speech therapy and, shortly after that, started occupational therapy.

Speech-language therapy addresses challenges with language and communication. It can improve people with autism’s verbal, nonverbal, and social communication. Occupational therapy helps him focus on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care. These therapies have helped my son so much with learning how to communicate and use his body to learn and grow. He was diagnosed by APS (Albuquerque Public School) district shortly after this to gain access to needed supports in school. Getting the diagnosis from APS also allowed me to reach out to multiple resources in the community.

Connect with Other Parents Who Understand

I was able to go to autism-friendly movie showings and park meetups. I gained a whole new world of friends for my son and me. The kids weren’t avoiding him or making mean remarks to him at the park anymore. They were all running around with each other in their own way. They didn’t even have to talk. I loved this new world for my son. My mom heart seemed a little warmer.

I started going to autism mom groups and hanging out with families that have children on the spectrum as well. This helped me grow as a parent because I felt like I wasn’t the only one going through all of the stresses of getting bitten every day or having their child run away or dealing with an unlimited amount of meltdowns in a week and struggling to regulate their own emotions in those moments.

These parents understood. They all had similar stories.

See Challenging Behaviors with an Understanding of Autism

When my son started kindergarten, he threw a table and got in many fights with other children. My son also would take off his shoes and run when he would get overwhelmed . . . he still does this sometimes. It is scary for me as a mom. Very stressful. Very exhausting.

Before my son could communicate, I would have bite marks all up and down my arms and legs. I knew my son didn’t mean to hurt me. I knew that he was just trying to tell me things. But I just didn’t know what.

Yes, some of these bite marks drew blood. Sometimes when my son gets overwhelmed or confused, he runs–elopes. This scares the heck out of my momma heart every single time. He is so fast and strong too. He is six years old right now and built like a football player. Elopement is common in children with autism and can be a traumatic situation for a child and caregivers. It is when the person runs or wanders away from caregivers or secure locations.

I try to be candid and open about these moments as a mom on my social media. I share these stories to let people know that my family is made of humans. My son elopes once a month or so when he gets overwhelmed by a situation. He punches my head, bites me, and wiggles free as I try to grab him and keep him safe. And I have to sleep the whole next day to recover and address my emotional needs. We try to ensure that my son knows our plans and that we don’t deviate from our normal schedule too much. This helps minimize the elopement and overwhelming times.

Focus on Your Child’s Unique Strengths

Even though having a child on the spectrum can come with its challenges, it comes with so many rewards. My son loves to tell me he loves me over and over with one breath and it’s the sweetest thing. He stims by dancing. His dancing shows me his pure joy from his heart and soul. And he is so smart! He was learning numbers at three and can complete some times tables, now, at six. He also loves to build things. Whether he builds with wooden blocks, legos, or pillows, he is creative and determined to make his build the best. He is simply pure joy, our joy. He is our rock. And he makes life fun.

Being a parent of a special needs child will never be easy. Being a parent of a special needs child will never end. And being a parent of a special needs child is a life calling for a strong person that is willing to learn something new every day.

If you are a special needs parent, you are doing AMAZING!

Check out ABQ Mom’s Guide to Autism Resources in Albuquerque.

Other NM and ABQ Autism Resources

Explorabilities Therapy


NM Autism Society

Info from NM Dept of Health

UNM Health Autism Programs

Centria Healthcare Autism Info

Autism Concierge Services

*A note about terminology: We realize that terminology changes over time and there is current discussion and advocacy for the use of identity-first language instead of person-first language, particularly in some disability groups. At ABQ Mom, we always seek to use the language that reflects the inherent dignity and worth of all people. We also respect the rights of our writers to select their own terminology when telling their own stories, so we have chosen to use the author’s own word choices throughout this post.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.


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