Story of Mother with Cancer, Daughter with Autism and Selfless Love
Recently I was given the opportunity to do something that I’ve always wanted to do, to interview parents of children with autism. The parents I met along the road are awe inspiring. These parents are each facing different struggles, with different hopes, different fears, and vastly different stories to tell.
Society thinks that we all walk the same path once our children are diagnosed, that our stories somehow become the same as soon as our child is labeled as autistic. Nothing is further from the truth. Our hope is that the interviews in this series will give some a different view of the parents that raise these children.
Some Background Information
Ms. Cat Maliepaard is a single mother of a 5 year old little girl with autism. They live in Alaska. Cat’s daughter, Kylie, was diagnosed with autism recently. So recently that they do not know what her severity is yet. Cat is a great deal of support and a fountain of knowledge. Cat is a very sweet woman, a very interesting and very sweet woman. Cat was a NCOIC in the army before having Kylie. I, personally, have come to admire Cat a great deal. Cat is raising her daughter all alone, she has no help. Amongst all the chaos associated with a young autistic child Cat found out that she had cancer. This woman defines ‘tough’. She got up, regardless of how she felt or if she had just gotten chemo, and took care of her daughter. She is one of those mom’s that define the word.
Brooke: Let’s start with the basics. What is Kylie’s diagnosis/diagnoses? Severe, Moderate, Mild (or ASD 1, 2, or 3)? Does she have any co-morbids?
Cat: My daughter was diagnosed with just Autism. She was diagnosed with Insomnia and Trichotillomania as her co-morbids.
Brooke: Thank you. Finding out that your child has autism is never easy. If you had to pick one defining emotion you felt when you first heard that Kylie had autism what would you say it was?
Cat: Sadness. I felt sad because I didn’t know if she could ever be happy or how to make her happy.
Brooke: Sorrow is a reasonable emotion.” “Did the doctor(s) diagnose her autism right off or did she go through several misdiagnoses like a lot of parents’ experience?
Cat: When she first stopped talking a general doctor told me I just needed to force myself to talk to her more. I thought I already was. Then just before she turned 2 she was diagnosed with autism.
Brooke: Doctors placing blame, it’s a good example of how difficult autism can be. What has been the hardest part about raising a Kylie? How have you coped with it?
Cat: The hardest part about raising my autistic daughter was doing it by myself. None of my family really understands autism and even my own father said she could talk if she had a better mother. I cope with raising her by using my time wisely. I need to sleep as soon as she does, I don’t need to waste time with family or friends trying to change their mind/views on autism. Some people think they just know everything.
Brooke: I admire you Cat. Autism is hard, doing it as a single mother has to make it much harder. What has raising Kylie taught you the most about yourself?
Cat: Raising an autistic child has taught me not to be selfish. However, I tend to go over to the opposite end and just forget about any ‘me’ time or being social.
Brooke: Autism does require vast unselfishness to live with. While raising an autistic child is hard, it isn’t all hardships. What has been the funniest thing about raising Kylie? Tell me about it.
Cat: Kylie is socially disconnected when it comes to knowing what is right or wrong is hard. I have cancer, when doing chemotherapy I lost all my hair. When we went out I wore a wig. Little Kylie tried to rip it off my head so many times, with both hands even. People would just laugh because she was so persistent. When my hair finally grew 1 inch I stopped wearing wigs. One day a lady came into a restaurant with her husband, she was bald and wearing nothing but pink. Our food was called so I went to get it, as soon as I turned around to go back at the table, there was my daughter on the next booth, and she was rubbing the bald ladies head!
Brooke: Seems like one thing we do all have in common is that our children are great senses of joy and humor! A lot of parents have one thing they accredit a large amount of their child’s success too. What would your one thing be?
Cat: Intervention! I had no idea what was happening, but I had to hold my daughter from the time her eyes opened until she went to sleep. Interventions made it possible to sit on the toilet without holding her, seriously.
Brooke: You are so right! Intervention is key. On the flip side, a lot of parents have one thing they accredit most of their sanity still being intact to. What would your one thing be?
Cat: I owe my sanity to the patience I gained over the years. How I unwind is going to sleep. If I am too stressed to even sleep then I end up taking melatonin. I can’t waist my sleeping opportunities.
Brooke: That is the truth, that’s for sure. In conclusion, if you could give only one bit of advice to a fellow parent of a child with autism what would it be?”
Cat: Don’t expect anything like sleep, verbal communication, a clean house. Things are going to change from your norm when you have a child with autism. They don’t think typically like most people do so don’t expect your days to be typical. This matters to me because at first, no matter how much I tried, things weren’t changing. Even while being treated for breast cancer I was wasting my time trying to live a ‘typical’ life, before she was born.
I’d like to extend a special Thank You to Ms. Maliepaard for allowing herself to be interviewed for this series. I have learned a great deal about strength from interviewing Cat. She defines strength and, as I said, she defines the word Mom. I will be forever changed because I met her.
Make sure you watch for other interviews in this series.
Other Autism Related Stories By Brook Price