Monday, January 28, 2013

Warrior Mom Monday: Meet Christine P.

Warrior Mom Monday is a new monthly series on AutismWonderland. Every last Monday of the month, I will highlight a Warrior Mom.

I assure you, "Warrior Mom" has absolutely nothing to do with Jenny McCarthy. The term and the meaning is much much bigger than her. It also has nothing to do with what you feed your kid, or if you give your child supplements or whether or not you believe autism can be cured. 

Warrior Mom is about being an amazing mother. A strong mother who is fighting for her kid(s). It's about being a really wonderful mom who is willing do whatever it takes.

Often people will tell me what a great mom I am. And while I appreciate their words, I know so many great moms - doing the same thing I'm doing. The only difference is that I chronicle our experience on this blog. I often find myself inspired by the other moms - moms without blogs - and I wanted to share their story, their experience here.      

Name:  Christine P.

Where did you grow up?/Where do you live? I grew up in Jackson Heights, and moved to Staten Island when I was about 8. Have lived on "The Rock" ever since.

# of Children/Names/Ages/DiagnosisDevin and Sara - twin 8-year old girls diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 18mos.  Now considered "other impaired" (according to their IEP)

Relationship Status: Married to Ron for 10 years last September. Never had a fight.

Occupation:  CEO (Chief Everything Officer) of my little homestead.

On Dealing with Diagnosis

Prior to your child's diagnosis, what did you think autism was?  How has your thinking changed?  

Truth be told, I never really thought about Autism. Because after all, it couldn't possibly happen to me, right? If pressed for an answer, I suppose I would have said that an autistic child was one that was "locked in their own world". Of course now I know that it can (and did) happen to me. Autism is a bitch. Autism is a nasty word. Autism is an opportunity to change people's thinking. 

What is your biggest challenge/frustration about raising a child with special needs?

Our families didn't really "get it" at first. I would hear things like "oh, don't be silly. They're FINE." or "You're overreacting." We would attend family functions and folks wouldn't understand (or worse, would get offended) because I came to parties with my own foods. They didn't understand why my kids didn't just sit down and eat pizza like the rest of the kids: believe me, my life would've been so much easier if they had!  Family members would ask me about their therapies, and when I'd answer questions, they'd say things like, "Gee, I'm looking at them now and they don't ACT like there's anything wrong..." Well, that's because you've been in a room with them for a couple of hours: come stay at my house for a week, and see if your opinion changes.  

Once we had a diagnosis, and we started therapy, my husband and I decided that I would not go back to work. I'm lucky that I was able to have that luxury. I'm a control freak by nature and being home enabled me to observe therapy and do carry-over work during the week. 

Don't get me started on the Department of Ed. All things considered, I've had a pretty easy road so far. Our Turning 5 was pretty stressful. The psychologist who evaluated my kids was a complete nightmare and I almost put her through a wall. And the OPT? Every single school year I'm entering complaints about my kids being on the bus over the allowed time. Every. Single. Year.

How do you deal with your challenges/frustrations?   

Wine. Lots of wine. :)

I have a really good support network. I've made the most of social connections, and have several other moms who have older kids, and have been through everything I'm going through. It helps to bounce things off someone who has been there/done that.

What has surprised you most about your child(ren)?

My daughters have surprised just about everyone. When they arrived at their District 75 preschool at 3 years old, they had no functional language: They had sensory issues, they were stimming. If you met them today, you'd be hard-pressed to see any autism "tells".  There are things I see, but that's because I'm their mom. 

Who do you get the most support from?

My husband. He keeps me in check, and he's the first person to encourage me when its time to get all "Warrior Mom" on someone. :)

What do you dream for your child?

It's pedestrian I know...but I just want my girls to be accepted. I want them to have lots of friends, to be successful, to be independent.  And I want them to go to college.

One thing you wish you knew when your child was initially diagnosed.  

That there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope. And as the mom, you're the one who holds onto the hope for them.

What do you want strangers/other children to know about your child/children?

My daughters are sweet, imaginative, loving, funny, and sassy. Don't judge them just because they won't eat chicken nuggets and french fries, or because they still like Alvin and the Chipmunks (which is like, SO two years ago).

One piece of advice you would give a parent hearing the diagnosis for the first time.

DON'T RUSH TO THE INTERNET. You will only freak yourself out. Take some time, take it in, then make a plan. Document EVERYTHING. Remember that YOU are the parent, and YOU know your child better than anyone, better than any doctor, therapist, specialist, or teacher. Remember that you are their voice when they have no voice.

Just for Fun

You have 2 hours to yourself.  What do you do?  Only TWO?? Maybe a massage...or more likely, get a BIG Dunkin iced coffee and scrapbook uninterrupted. I'm easy.

If you had to skip one, which would you skip: dinner or dessert?  DINNER.

Three items you can't leave home without.
My iPhone, my wallet, and my lip gloss. Not necessarily in that order.

Warrior Mom Christine with husband Ron. (below)
Their girls, Sarah & Devon. (on top)

1 comment:

AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.