By Maria Pepperworth – Alaskan parent, advocate, rocker!
Whenever people ask me about autism I like to use the word experience. My kids “experience” autism. In reality, our whole family “experiences” autism. It impacts the whole family. Autism is different in every person. It’s unpredictable, it’s difficult, it’s amazing, it’s a puzzle. If you would’ve told me when I was a teenager that I would grow up to become the single mom of two kids on the autism spectrum I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Back then I had no idea what autism really was.
Raising these two quirky amazing yet challenging autistic people has been quite a journey. I feel like I never get any sleep, and there are times I feel incredibly alone, and there are days of great joy and laughter. They have changed my thinking and my world. They both amaze me every day, and I’m so proud to be their mom.
I also have a mom and dad who have stepped up to help me in this journey. My kids are blessed with awesome Grandparents. My mom has spent years helping with therapies, doctors visits, and any way she could to help with Tyler and Haley, before and after my divorce. My dad makes sure that we have a roof over our heads, helps fix things, and has been our rock. He has become the strong male figure in their lives. Both of them have sacrificed more than anyone will ever know. Instead of living on a beach somewhere they are here with me, helping me parent these two children who live daily with challenges in this world that doesn’t always understand or accept them. I couldn’t be doing this without them. I’ve been truly blessed to have them walk this journey with us.
One of our favorite things to do all together is drive to Homer and stay for a few days. It’s peaceful there. The kids love the ocean and all the seabirds. It’s a very welcoming community, and for just a few days we can relax and not care about school or work, we can just watch the ocean. Seeing the joy on my kid’s faces as they run along the beach chasing seagulls does my heart so much good. My mom walks along the beach with Haley and my dad fishes with Tyler. It’s one of our happiest of places.
I’d like thank my mom and dad, and all the other grandparents that have stepped up in so many ways when autism entered the family. Your sacrifices, love, and support carry us through the hard times. Thank you. The words alone will never be enough, but the love my kids have for their grandparents is priceless. We are an autism family. Quirks and all.