Raising a child with autism presents unique challenges that few understand. Some have understandable difficulty dealing with the diagnosis or can easily get overwhelmed in figuring out how to navigate their child’s journey best. There can be an emotional toll, physical and mental exhaustion, and the palpable hope you could do more to help.
These are aspects life coach, career-educator, and author of Hello Autism: How to Love, Like, and Learn from Your Special Needs Child, Theresa Noye relates to and aims to support.
Ms. Noye’s experience as the mother of an ASD son, Regal, speaks to the working mother who deals with the daily stresses and emotional rollercoaster of raising a child with special needs. Theresa took her own experiences and poured them into her book, which she describes as part self-help and part memoir.
Dealing with the Diagnosis
“I was in denial,” said Noye about her son’s autism diagnosis. “It was my husband who noticed that Regal wasn’t developing like other kids. He was our first child, and I had convinced myself there was nothing wrong. When he was diagnosed, I felt like I was sucker-punched. Autism seemed like a burglar, robbing me of parenting a typical child.”
In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Boys are typically four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. Up to half of all children with ASD experience behavioral problems. However, studies have shown that early diagnosis and intervention can positively impact life outcomes for children with autism. So while many parents may feel like they are overreacting or their child may need more time to develop, if you suspect your child may be on the spectrum, having them assessed sooner rather than later can make a tremendous difference.
Being African American and Autistic
“It was important to me that other Black families hear our story,” Noye shared. “I only saw one other Black family with a child with autism during Regal’s entire childhood. I also wanted all families to have a shift in mindset. That was huge for us.”
Reports show that white children are often diagnosed with autism more than black or Hispanic children. This means that black and Hispanic children with ASD may not be getting the services they desperately need. In addition, a study published in Autism suggests that Hispanic children are more likely than white children to lack health or residency records, which excludes them from prevalence analyses.
“Many of the reports and interactions with Regal were not filled with hope,” Ms. Noye said. “The odds are seemingly against you. Most likely, the facts will be grim and dim. They will list a litany of limitations, track the areas where they are underperforming, and create sections dedicated to what is not working.”
In her book, she wanted to provide an alternative to this with a blueprint for hope and encouragement.
Advice and Support
With her son now being in college hundreds of miles away from home on scholarship, Theresa’s story and practical tips aim to offer hope for parents. In “Hello Autism,” Ms. Noye explores:
- Encountering and accepting true feelings after your child’s diagnosis
- Giving yourself grace and establishing balance as a mother to a special needs child
- Embracing your power and taking back your life
Ms. Noye also suggests reaching out for help and building a positive and supportive community around you. She also recommends getting an advocate. “I used to sit in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, and they would throw around acronyms and terms I didn’t understand. An advocate can make sure that you get what you need. There were so many resources I was not aware of that I wouldn’t have known had it not have been for my advocate!”
She’s hoping that the book will also help others reconnect emotionally while navigating through the daunting reality of nurturing a special needs child. She quite often suggests a spiritual approach. “Connect with your higher power. There is strength and wisdom inside of you. You have to tap into it. God will lead and strengthen you.”