Juggling the Role of Entrepreneur, Wife, and Mother of Autistic Children
Being a mother is hard enough without adding autism to the mix. If the large amount of groups dedicated to parents of autistic children are any indication, there are many more of you than you realize. As an autism mother or father, you are not alone in your need for information, support, and people who truly understand your needs.
The Inspiration Series
Because autism can become the root of many frustrations, for those on the spectrum and their family members, I began the inspiration series, relaying the stories of those who live with autism day in and day out. The first in the series was about a woman living with an autistic brother growing up, her struggles and the sweetness of the love they share. The second brought to life the beginning of one of the largest autism support groups which exist today on Facebook, called Autism. Nunu Sanchez gladly shared her experience as a mother of an autistic child and how she found and later took control of the group which helps answer all those burning questions parents of autistic children might have. The third in the series was the story of the Autism Whisperer, a man with autism and how he managed to live a normal life, raise a family and help raise awareness about the disorder. Tips were shared by him on how to get through the holidays when stimulation overload might be a constant problem.
Latest in the Series
The fourth in the series, the story of a mother and how she manages to juggle life with all its special moments, headaches, and excitement is presented to the reader. Here is the interview with Misty Dawn Comeau about juggling being an entrepreneur, a wife, and a mother to two children on the spectrum.
Let's start off with the basics. Tell me a little about you and your family. How old are your kids? When and how did you learn that they were on the spectrum? What are their individual diagnoses?
My kids are 8 and nearly 10. CJ, our 8yr old, was diagnosed first and he was 4yrs 11 months at diagnosis. He was diagnosed at our children's hospital by a psychologist and we received his answer on October 4th, 2010. Cadie was 7yrs 7 months when diagnosed in the same way, and we received her answer on December 4th, 2011. CJ is considered a 'high functioning classic autistic' while Cadie is considered a 'female with Aspergers Syndrome'. What made us get diagnosed was CJ's Jr. Kindergarten teacher noticing that he was not handling the classroom well and that his speech was not where it should be. She directed us to "first words for speech pathology" who said that they saw more going on and that before they could help him at all, he needed a full psych assessment. Our doctor made the referral and then, because CJ was positively identified, Cadie was given a referral to be sure we weren't missing anything for her.
Do you currently work? Have you worked anywhere else since you had your children?
Currently, I am in the process of creating my own job as an artisan...creating and selling accessories that I make myself. I have been a stay at home wife/mother since I was pregnant with Cadie. I do sometimes wonder how I missed so many signs with the kids before they were diagnosed because of the years I spent in childcare. I was a child care provider/nanny/babysitter for almost 20 years before I married. I got my first job as a babysitter at 13 and almost always had a job doing that somewhere. It did strike me as odd that they were so rigid in scheduling, talked early (or in CJ's case even stopped after an early start in talking), etc. Cadie said her first word at 3 months old and CJ wasn't far behind; she started with 'Hi and CJ's was 'yeah'. They were very high maintenance as toddlers, but now that they are older and a little more independent in some ways, I've been able to indulge in some creativity, which started me on my attempt to start up the accessories' sales. I started with making bracelets and then went from there. People really seemed to like what I was doing and some of it has started to sell. So it's been almost therapeutic for me to step back from being just mom and getting to be creative too.
How do you juggle 2 children on the spectrum with work and your husband?
Balancing everything is fairly easy for the most part as my husband is much like the kids, so we schedule everyone and make sure everyone is certain of what's going to happen and when. I also find it's best to have a back up plan and then another backup plan so that if something doesn't work out, the upsets are minor.
When you say your husband is much like your kids, does that mean he's on the spectrum too?
Craig and I were married for 2 years before we were pregnant with Cadie and I knew he had social issues, but so did I (being very shy myself as a kid who moved around a lot). So we enjoyed a quiet home and got together with friends only rarely. We both prefer a smaller gathering than a larger one. Hence, we suit each other well. What's funny is that as the kids get older and we see more of the differences of 'typical' and 'autistic' behaviours, we can point the finger at Craig, seeing as they share so many traits. I find we are a good team and the kids benefit from us in seeing that we truly work together and share the household chores and responsibilities. They do see Craig as more like them and will tell me if they think he 'broke a rule' or something. It's rather funny most of the time!
What are some of the major challenges you've faced in terms of schooling for your kids?
School challenges are huge at the moment. For Cadie, it's not as bad...we are working with her school to ensure she is challenged and that her social skills are coached and encouraged. She is doing incredibly well right now. For CJ, it's been a battle. He has severe anxiety in regards to school. We had an advocate for awhile which did help make sure he started on the path to success and then this year it has simply come apart. He is sent home early when they can't get him to cooperate, he has only one friend and he has no classroom supports other than the EA who is there for other kids as well. It has been up to me to pull him out and give him 'stress breaks' as well as attempt to communicate to staff (who don't seem to want to understand why I make the requests I do) what will help him. Right now, he's about to start back after a week off and he is understandably worried. But we are hoping that with the upcoming assessments and genetic testing, that we will get him on a better path.
What advice would you give other mothers who newly face the same situation?
My advice to other moms is to celebrate your kids every day; make every little progress a huge deal, celebrate 'answer day' (anniversary of diagnosis), don't hide from your kids what they have (my kids know they have a 'special word' and what it is), and don't back down from making sure their needs are met. Just like any other kid, some days will be good and some days will be bad but there will be a moment in every day when they literally just blow you away with something they can do.