After finding out about Noah’s diagnosis, Jeremy and I went through a period of denial, maybe we still are, I don't know. I think at one point,however, I began to accept and understand it more and more. It took Jeremy much longer, and in some ways, I think he's still processing it all even a year later. I wasn't in any hurry to get our family out there and in society being noticed as a special needs family. I wanted more than anything not to be able to identify with society in that way. It was easy at first. We blended in at the grocery store and in the community. A lot of Noah’s meltdowns could be passed off for a typical two year old tantrum. No one really noticed he wasn’t talking much.
Eventually, it got harder and harder to "hide”, for lack of a better word. People began talking to Noah more and when they realized he wouldn't answer them, I began making excuses for him. It occurred to me finally, that I did n’t know how to handle Noah’s situation publicly and I’m convinced I’d been doing everything wrong. My friends and family began suggesting emphatically that I get support from a group of people who could easily identify and relate to our family’s situation. I kept putting it off and putting it off. Eventually, I attended my first meeting with the Autism Society of Acadiana. It stemmed from the need to find out more about certain therapies for Noah and for other ways to cope with things that began happening with him. There, I found everything I had been looking for and kicked myself for not reaching out sooner. Through the information and resources they gave me, Noah soon began new kinds of therapies, we got the support we needed in knowing we were n’t alone in this journey, and we began to participate in community fundraisers and activities.
One of the major fundraisers the Society does each year is the Walk for Hope and Family Fun Day. It was held on April 5th this year and we built a team for our first year in the Walk. Noah's Runaway Train was among almost 90 teams participating in the walk. We prepared for this day for months in advance. Everyone was getting excited and was looking forward to the event. Nothing could have prepared us for what we would experience.
I've been to events such as these before for a couple of other organizations. NOTHING ever comes close to the atmosphere we experienced while at this particular event. First of all, the place was packed! I had no idea there were that many Acadiana families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. There were tents set up with activities for the kids. Food vendors were set up and giving away as much food as they had on hand. I brought cash to buy food for the kids there, but we did n’t spend a dime and ate wonderfully. People were everywhere and I could n’t get over how many people were gathered to support such a great cause.Then we started talking with some of the families there. It amazed me that everyone had a different story. No two stories were alike and every one of the kids with ASD had a unique situation that made them different from the next. It is so true when they say "If you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” The families we spoke with were interested in our story and what we had experienced in the last year. Most of them gave me great insight about what was to come and what to expect next. When they would meet Noah, everyone commented on how adorable he was and how much of a heart breaker he was going to be. It was such an awesome experience, and I’ll never forget the impact it made on me personally for as long as I live. I’ll attend the walks every year, but this year will always stand out to me as the one that impacted me the most.
We began talking to the support systems that were there for each family. A lot of Noah’s doctors and therapists were there. At Noah’s ABA clinic, he has all female therapists and doctors, so when they all crowded around his stroller to dote on him, he had the biggest grin on his face. I was happy to have my family meet some of the people that interact with my son every day. It is completely true when they say it takes a village to raise a child. Noah goes through so many different people’s hands, I feel like they are all little mommies to him in some way.
Our crew was there to support Noah and our family. I’ll never forget the group of people gathered to support us our first year. To our family and friends gathered to support us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your love for our son and our family is felt by us and we could not be more blessed to have you all in our lives.
Thank you to the Autism Society of Acadiana for putting on such a wonderful event. Our family will always be indebted to you for all you do for us and the ASD community. We are so happy to have found you all!