When My Son’s Autism Diagnosis Was the Miracle We Needed


When I was in junior high, my dad built a large wood soccer kick board in our backyard. I grew up in rural New Jersey, and we had a good amount of yard space to practice any sport. This board helped me develop the skills I needed in the various sports I played. I vividly remember throwing and catching lacrosse balls with it and playing one-on-one matches with my dad using the board as my goal.

It also was a way to bond with my dad. We spent hours outside together. We would talk about sports and school. He would give me advice, and I would tell him my goals for the future. The simple board helped create a special connection with my dad.

When my son, Max, was born, I was so nervous to be a mom. I loved him with all of my heart and soul, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Parenting was something new, and it was something I didn’t go to school for. I read books on parenting, nursing and having a happy, well-adjusted baby. But when Max started missing basic milestones and was socially behind his peers, I was unable to connect with him and didn’t feel like a good parent. I was failing my child. I wasn’t doing something right. Max would spend hours screaming all day and physically hurt himself. He was unable to communicate. As much as I wanted to understand, I didn’t. I was frustrated, depressed and worried I wasn’t a good mom.

Then a miracle happened. We talked to our pediatrician and discussed the things we had observed with Max. The doctor comforted us and told us there was help. He also told us weren’t bad parents. Instead, he explained we’re the parents of a special child who needs our help to navigate through life. 

At age 2 1/2,  Max was diagnosed with autism. This was a year and a half ago. Since then, I have been gathering the tools to allow me to enter his world. The diagnosis wasn’t the end of the world; it was the beginning of a brand new one. It’s a world I’m so lucky to be a part of. Autism has helped me reach both of my children. It has helped me become a better mother, wife and teacher.

Max has been the best guide in the world. He is a fantastic example of unconditional love, kindness, stubbornness and devotion to his love for life. He still faces challenges, we all do. But at least now he has parents who have the tools to help him be successful. Having two children with autism gives us even more tools because what we have learned works with Max might not work with our youngest son, Dexter. We have to be constantly learning.

Autism isn’t a label for my family. It’s a tool, a guide and a world that connects me to my boys.

tiffany strong.1-001

Follow this journey on Spaceship Max.

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

‘Switched at Birth’ Scene Tackles Ignorance Around Down Syndrome

The ABC Family show “Switched at Birth” is taking on ignorance surrounding Down syndrome. In a clip from an upcoming episode of the show, the character of Lily, played by Rachel Shenton, is opening presents at her baby shower. We come to learn that her baby has Down syndrome after a guest apologizes for gifting [...]

8 Ways to (Kind of) Prepare for Your Child’s Brain Surgery

Wouldn’t it be nice if an actual list or blog existed to prepare you for something like brain surgery? Over the past two years our family has fumbled our way through tuberous sclerosis complex and all the crazy curveballs it can throw. From seizures to hospital stays, to therapies and now brain surgery. I’ll be honest though… I [...]

Why I Want Loved Ones to Stop Suggesting I Have Another Baby

“You should have another baby!” Almost four years ago to the day, when I gave birth to my son, I didn’t have any plans on having another child. Fourteen hours of labor was enough for me. We would be content with an only child. As any mother knows, soon that pain from labor disappears and [...]

To the People Who Watch Our Special Needs Family From the Sidelines

Last week, I picked my son up from preschool and lingered on the playground for a bit, just watching him play. I watched the kids swirl around him in dizzying circles, up and over the playground structure, around the sandbox, running with effortless ease. Laughing and calling to one another in high-pitched toddler squeals. Kids, [...]