Guest Blogger + Founder of Super Moms of Special Kids
If you don’t remember Cole, he was our 2015 Children’s Portrait Contest Winner! When we asked Hillary if she would be willing to share her experience with entering Cole into the contest, she didn’t even hesitate. After announcing Cole’s major victory, we thought it would be a great opportunity for Cole’s mom to spread awareness and shed some light on autism from the mom’s perspective. Read her story below:
I’d Rather Have a Tooth Extraction
by Hillary M.
On January 9th, 2010, my life changed forever. That was the day I found out I was going to be a mom. Fast forward to September 8th, I gave birth to the most beautiful child I have ever seen in my life. I know, I’m totally biased, but he was mine, and he was perfect. We named him Cole, and he was pretty much a unicorn child since birth. He slept through the night completely by 8 weeks, he hit his physical developmental milestones all early, or right on time, we thought, “This is so amazing, let’s get pregnant and do this all over again!”
Fast forward to Cole’s 15 month check up. Doctor had mentioned that he should have more words at this point. He was only saying “ma, da, and cup”. He told me not to worry, and that he sees boys that are late talkers all the time. By 18 months, he only had 10 words, and they were scrambled gibberish that only my husband and I could really understand. At that point, our doctor recommended early intervention to give Cole the boost in speech that he needed. I went home with little concerns, called the Early Intervention specialists, and set up appointments to get our intake, and services evaluation done, all while I was 8 months pregnant with #2.
When our daughter was born, we noticed a major regression in Cole. He had his EI eval, and they diagnosed him with a speech AND cognitive delay. I wasn’t expecting the double delay, only the speech. So I did what most parents to, I went to Dr. Google, and I cried at all the information I was pulling up. To the point that I think I called his case manager at 9:30 on a Sunday night to discuss what I had found. She told me to have a glass of wine, and stay off Google, which I managed to do for a good year.
At 2 years old, I had Cole evaluated by an occupational therapist. He was CONSTANTLY jumping and running from one end of the room to the other. It was exhausting. She told me Cole has Sensory Processing Disorder, and he’s a seeker. This means his senses are constantly seeking stimulation. After putting him on a sensory diet (OT activities for 20 minutes every 2 hours), he seemed to have a little more of a calm body.
We were able to get Cole into the integrated preschool classroom when he turned 3. 6 months in, he was also diagnosed with speech apraxia. But the only thing I saw was my child regressing more and more. He wasn’t talking, he wouldn’t answer to his name, and he stopped looking at you in the eyes. So my husband and I took matters into our own hands and had him evaluated by a neuropsychiatrist. On September 9th, one day after his 4th birthday, Cole was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My husband and I walked out of the doctor’s office, gave each other a fist bump and said “We’ve got this shit, and Cole is going to beat whatever obstacles ASD throws at him”… Except family photos. I honestly don’t know whats worse for a child with autism. A haircut, trip to the dentist, or making them pose and interact, smile and look at a camera. All this without having a major friggen melt down.
It has been two years since we had a successful family photo shoot. The last time we had any fun with them was July of 2013 when my friend came up from Texas and took our pictures. We have tried since then. Christmas pictures 2013, horrible… 2014, even worse (SO BAD), random family photo shoot I tried to put together last summer, it bombed. They always ended with me sweating my ass off because I’m so stressed and crying so hard, and Cole also in tears and having a major meltdown.When a friend told me that JessFoto had an opening for their children’s photo contest, I figured I would take the slot because it was a minimal investment, and I could probably get some good pictures of my daughter. Maybe I would enter a picture of her in the contests. Well, all odds of meltdowns were coming together like a perfect storm that day. Cole had school from 9-1, followed by his first in home ABA therapy, which was 3 hours long. No nap, poor kid had been told what to do all day, I was tempted to leave him at home with my husband and just take my daughter.
Then I met Jess. She was like an angel sent from above, meant to photograph my kids. She was patient, loving, kind, and entertaining. She knew exactly how to work with my son and work with me to get amazing pictures of him. For the first time in 2 years, someone was able to capture images of my son that show off his loving personality, amazing smile, and beautiful blue eyes, that we see every day. For the first time in 2 years, I was sent proofs and I looked at them and said “There’s my boy.” So I decided to enter both kids into the contest, and guess what. HE WON!!!!!
It just goes to show that ASD does not define him, and he can do anything, with the right team. At home, that team is me, my husband and a bunch of ABA therapists. At school he has his teacher, some aids, SLP and OT’s, and when it comes to pictures, his team is JessFoto. I can not speak highly enough of the effort that the team at JessFoto put in with Cole, and that their feelings for him were genuine and sincere.We left that day having ice cream for dinner, sweat free, tear free, and tantrum free. It was like any other day that we would be hanging out at the orchard as a family. I can not wait to work with this team again!