This Mom's Love To Her Autistic and Down Syndrome Kids Will Humble You
I have actually known Judy LeFort for a few years now. When given the opportunity to interview parents of autistic children I knew she was one that I had to speak too. Raising an autistic child is an extremely hard job that, let’s be honest, none of us asked for. When we found out we were going to be parents we weren’t in the back of the room with our hand up asking for a disabled child. It’s not as though we’d change it if we could, we just didn’t expect it. Mrs. LeFort got hit with the two most precious, amazing double whammy’s I’ve ever seen. Her story will humble you and leave you in a state of shock. You will, without a doubt, want to convey how remarkable she is to her by the end of this interview.
Some Background Information
Mrs. Judy LeFort is the proud mother of 3 from Massachusetts. Her oldest is named Cal, he is 17 and has autism. He is such a radiant young man. Judy also has a 16 year old “neurotypical” daughter named Sarah and a 3 year old daughter named Rachel, who has Down Syndrome. Those girls are extraordinary. Their bond is so precious it’s enough to reduce even the most detached person to tears. One thing I can tell you for sure is that Judy is one of those women that you can sit and stare at with astonishment and her never understand why you are doing it. She’s truly a “Warrior Mom”.
Brooke: Hi Judy, Thank you for consenting to be interviewed. I want to jump right in and find out how you felt when Cal was first diagnosed. I feel it is such a powerful question. So, tell me, if you had to pick one defining emotion that you felt whenever you first heard he was autistic what would you say it was? Do you know why?
Judy: Denial!!! You see, I’d never heard of autism before. From the descriptions I had read, I just didn’t want to believe my son would have to endure this wretched disorder.
Brooke: I had similar feelings when Zain was diagnosed honestly. I think it is just a natural part of the diagnostic process. Which, by the way I should’ve probably asked first. What is Cal’s diagnosis? Does he have any distinguishing co-morbid disorders?
Brooke: SIB and aggression alone has had to be extremely hard to cope with, adding autism to the mix, I bet some days were very stressful for you. Aside from the aggression he shows what would you say has been the hardest part about raising Cal?
Judy: Honestly, the hardest part is not knowing! Not knowing what’s bothering him, if anyone has harmed him, what is he thinking, if he is in pain? When he was little it was grasping at every straw possible while keeping myself sane. The whole time hoping that I am doing all I can to give him the best life possible.
As far as me, I’ve had to go to counseling numerous times and I needed to go on Zoloft. However, I have changed my eating and exercise habits. My greatest help in coping with Cal’s autism, though, is my faith in God.
Brooke: Anybody with the stressors you face would need some help Judy. I commend you for recognizing that and getting the help you needed. When I first noticed I needed meds I ignored it until I almost exploded. You are an outstanding mother. Why don’t you go ahead and define your family dynamics for me. Give people a little summary of your home.
Judy: Well, my son is 17. I have been married to my husband, Ed, for 20 years. We have a 16 year old NT [neurotypical] & we have a 3 year old with Down Syndrome. About two years ago Cal had to go into residential placement due to his severe episodes.
Brooke: I am sure that was a very hard decision for you and Ed to come to, putting Cal in a residential placement. With a small child with Down Syndrome in your home needing to be cared for and Cal with autism I do not blame you. You had to do what you had to do to keep him safe and keep your family safe, if he “melts down”. I admire you Judy. Even though he has behavior issues, he has had a lot of successes! A lot of parents attribute their child’s success to one thing. What would you say your one thing for Cal is?
Judy: Unconditional love and caring people who are giving their hearts & time to him
Brooke: Two essential things to our children’s success! I am very eager to ask this, if you could give only one bit of advice to a fellow parent of a child with autism what would it be?
Judy: Breath! Make sure you love them over the huge to-do list of therapies you have left to try. You know, if I could do it all over again, I would be less obsessed with fixing the issues, & I’d use that energy to enjoy life more. So basically, stop and smell the roses often!
Brooke: That is great advice Judy! I don’t want to give the perception that raising an autistic child is all hard times. With that say, can you tell me what has been the funniest thing about raising Cal? Could you tell me about it?
Judy: I’m having a hard time thinking of the funniest thing to be honest. I guess I would say it is when Cal shouts out silly sentences in public, like, “Get the pumpkin” then he’ll giggle. You know, Cal has taught me to be yourself, quirks and all, around people in public. It sure does test what kind of person someone is by how they react.
Brooke: That is absolutely adorable! Thank you again for consenting to this interview Judy. So, in closing, Can you tell me what has raising autism taught you the most about yourself? Do you thank the disorder for that?
Judy: For starters, the disorder itself is UGLY! I HATE IT! But through it, it has made me more courageous, gave me a stronger faith, more compassionate, and it has taught me how to love unconditionally.
Through this interview I am being very transparent. I am sharing my struggles openly, so that others don’t feel alone in theirs. I have found that often people reach out to me when they are at their lowest. So I would say autism, the world that is if we’d allow it.
She really has openly shared her story and I appreciate her so much for doing this interview. Judy is a courageous woman with the strength of a thousand all in her little body. I was serious when I told her I admire her. Few people could handle two special needs children with the grace that Judy LeFort does. On top of those two children, she also has Sarah, who Judy has made a point to make time to bond with as well. This woman has it all. Her family is extremely lucky to have her as their wife and mother. Judy, I really do admire you, all the way down to your core you are exceptional.
Other Autism Related Stories by Brooke Price
- This Australian Mother Approaches Autism with a Great Sense of Humor and Fun
- Exemplary Father Talks about Autism, Support and Thinking Outside the Box
- Story of Mother with Cancer, Daughter with Autism and Selfless Love
- Mistakes of A Special Needs Mother: Tips From a Parent of an Autistic Child
- Piecing the Puzzle Back Together: Tips from a Mom of an Autistic Child
- Autism in a Family: This Father Proves Love and Success are Possible