One of the most significant problems faced after an autism diagnosis is the isolation caregivers experience. While we cannot always connect in person with other parents, we can share our autism stories.
By sharing the raw, but also inspiring moments of going through an autism diagnosis, we can help inspire families on so many levels.
Today, we have been blessed for our friend Leslie to share her family’s autism journey. Check it out below!
Sharing our Journeys with Autism Parenting: The Hershkovitz Story
My name is Leslie Hershkovitz, mother of 4 who is a survivor of many things that don’t define me. I am a blogger that’s finding my niche and healing in the process. You can follow our full story at Perfectlymadeimperfection.com. Below is our
Mental Health wasn’t something that I knew anything about growing up. I had a lot of quirks about me, to say the least, but I didn’t realize that there was such a thing as conditions and medications to help with them.
For the people who haven’t already seen my blog, I am a mother of 4. I have two boys and two girls who are all amazingly creative kids that I have taught me so much.
My two boys were both diagnosed with Autism.
Our oldest son Mark is ten years old and diagnosed autistic in 3rd grade. My youngest Mathyus is nine years old and diagnosed autistic in 1st grade. Their behavior was extremely different in comparison, especially when I started researching their symptoms.
Mark’s First Year
Mark was always up and ready to go from the day that I had him. He breastfed with so much excitement. I would always have to clip his nails and literally pull his mouth off my nipple. He would hold on to it even when he wasn’t eating.
He would make noises without expression whenever he caused some type of facial animation of angst. When I tickled him, he would grunt, but he wouldn’t laugh.
After research and speaking with his doctor, we were told that it might take time for him to learn those things. I didn’t want to rush him. I simply wanted to allow him to grow and have those milestones just like any other baby.
When Mark was about 11 months old, I started to get concerned about him walking because he barely crawled. Due to this, he wasn’t pulling himself up on things like I expected. He didn’t start naturally walking and smiling until he was almost two years old.
Mathyus’ First Year
Mathyus, on the other hand, was a fast learner. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about getting here, and he wasn’t in any rush to wake up when he got here! He slept for hours and was so fussy once I had to wake him.
Breastfeeding was a lot more complicated with him because he just didn’t want to. He wouldn’t even attempt until I put the milk on his lip. Mathyus was not attentive, and he smiled more often than not, but he didn’t keep eye contact even when I called his name.
I was aware that there was more to it than just merely him missing out on the social cues, but he did everything in his own time. Mathyus was walking by 11 months and attempting to talk, but he would scream noises, not verbal cues.
He stopped breastfeeding and started with a bottle of regular milk when he was one because his weight wasn’t where it should have been. He just simply wouldn’t eat enough, which left me engorged at times or leaking milk at others.
The thing that changed with Mathyus was the amount of energy he had. He was also explosive in his responses to anything other than what he wanted to do.
As Time Went on, We Noticed More
As the years went by, Mark was emotional and a very picky eater. Mathyus was aggressive and would eat anything I put in front of him. Both boys were growing either way, though.
Some days would be extremely tough, while others seemed like they were a breeze.
We set routines that worked for our busy family. If they weren’t kept or an uncontrolled change would happen, I noticed that they both responded accordingly.
We couldn’t change anything that they were used to without an outburst. I thought that it was just them being rebellious and out of control. We had grown accustomed to how different they were and adjusted when necessary.
Everything Changed for the boys in 3rd & 1st grade
There were so many rules and guidelines in school with how the staff viewed the children. Our biggest issue was that the kids weren’t being seen with the compassion that they should have been.
Most times, kids are placed in categories in schools with a label. They were either “good kids” or kids that had behavior issues.
Well, I think we know what category my kids were placed in. Although, I did make every attempt to explain that I had certain feelings about what was going on with them.
I still wasn’t aware that mental health is a priority because I was raised in a very religious home and was taught that you prayed while God did the work to fix it.
Mark couldn’t stay seated for long. He would have complete meltdowns when he was in the classroom or cafeteria. He couldn’t calmly walk in the hallway with his hands behind his back because he was always fidgeting and very distracted by everything.
Mathyus couldn’t handle the classroom door being closed when his backpack had to be left in the hallway. He had a tough time sitting on the carpet during reading or in the library.
All of this seemed “normal” to the school administration. To them, it just meant they needed to be redirected or given an explanation of the rules. At this point, I routinely received phone calls three times a day from different teachers, counselors, and principals.
The Research into Mental Health Began
I began having meetings to ensure that as I was researching and building up my knowledge on what could be going on with my sons. I updated the administration accordingly, and they still believed that it was just behavior issues that were caused by the environment they lived in.
We set appointments for assessments and even talked with psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors to find out how I could help my sons.
The evaluations for Mark showed that he was Autistic. However, the school chose not to agree with it. They continued to point to ADHD as the root of the issues instead.
Mathyus, on the other hand, received a Bipolar Disorder and Mood Disorder diagnosis. They came to this conclusion even though he wasn’t able to have eye contact or respond according to the conversation.
No one would take the time to review past information and see what was going on. It felt like I was getting a smile and a nod, just for people to talk about my family later.
New School District
In January 2017, we moved to another school district. The previous school had no paperwork to give me for Mathyus, even after all the things that we had come to find out about him.
There was no evidence of all the times he ran out of the classroom and out of the school because of the noise! There was no evidence of him breaking things or screaming at the top of his lungs mid-class, just to forget that it had even happened.
The boys never understood why they received consequences and restrictions when they had done something unexpected/ against the rules.
The first thing I requested at the new school was assessments for everything. Anything that they could do assessments for, it was done without question at this school. After I explained my concerns, they understood why. My boys finally received the attention they needed.
There were a lot of rough patches during the process of the changing teachers, but it was all worth it. They still have challenges, but as long as I continue to grow with them, it will make their lives easier.
Sharing our Journeys with Autism Parenting: The Hershkovitz Story
I need to be clear that my boys have been diagnosed but that in no way defines them. It has been years of educating myself and my husband on better methods of assisting them in this journey.
We are not always on point with the way we handle some of the new things that come along with this lifestyle. However, it is important to understand everyone is human.
Our Autism Journey Continues
I was raised to believe that kids should be “normal,” and they should do as told no matter what. I don’t have that belief system anymore, and I won’t ever accept that from anyone willing to treat my kids in that manner.
Everyone has their own thing, and allowing them to be themselves is the only way the world will be better for the generations to come.