They Say it Takes a Village

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I have wondered where you get this village.

When my son was first diagnosed with autism I did not want to tell anyone. I knew that he would beat the odds and recover from autism.

Maybe it was ignorance, denial, or wishful thinking. I thought that if I worked with him hard enough, provided him enough ABA therapy, changed his diet, gave him supplements he would return to the little boy that he had been before his regression. But instead of growth he withdrew further …… into a child that I didn’t even recognize.

I stopped taking pictures, journaling, and scrapbooking. I did not want to remember. It was almost like a death. The loss of a child that I once knew. Our family was changed overnight.

Our home was now a revolving door to therapists and I felt that I had lost control of my life as well as my sons. I didn’t know this diagnosis also came with boxing gloves.

Everything is so hard. I feel that I am constantly fighting. Fighting the school, the insurance company, and defending my son to strangers. I am not sure if someone would have warned me that autism would consume , change, and rule my life I would not have believed them. But of all the things that I didn’t expect was the loneliness.

As your child falls off the growth curve, and you shy away from activities because they are difficult for your child. Your mind is constantly thinking, worrying, and dwelling on autism so each conversation gravitates in that direction.

No one understands, it seems no one wants to hear about it so you withdraw further. You know people see you but don’t know what to say, autism, the elephant in the room. So imagine my surprise when the whole town, that I felt invisible to, rallied to support my son.

We live in a small town of 1400 people. My older girls are all involved in sports.

My family is well known but not it the way you may think. As we attempt to attend sporting events I can feel all eyes on us when we walk it, everyone can hear my family long before they see us.

No matter how equipped I am to keep Brayden happy, safe, and out of trouble he usually finds a way to draw attention to himself. It might be his sippy cup, ipad, or shoe thrown out onto the court or worse yet himself. He becomes easily overwhelmed and often the ipad, earphones, snacks and comfort of the stroller are not enough.

As time is passing I am running out of tricks.

Brayden is growing bigger, stronger, and faster. We are struggling to go places. Safety is such a concern. He has long since outgrown shopping carts and strollers. We have a monkey backpack leash but how much longer is that going to work for? There is never a moment that goes by that we aren’t asking, “where is Brayden?”

We decided we needed to find a way to help Brayden.

I attended an autism conference, and I learned about Autism Service Dogs of America from one of the presenters whose child has a service dog. She expressed how this service dog had changed her son’s life.

It gave him autonomy, routine, safety, and sensory support. All of the things that we so desperately needed. I researched, talked with, and realized that an Autism Service Dog was just what Brayden needed.

The problem was service dogs are very expensive. In order to be put on the over two year waitlist you had to have the funds in advance. How do we raise these funds?

We had contacted the bank in hopes that we could take out a home equity loan. That was an epic fail. After a particularly discouraging day I sat at lunch and shared our dilemma with a coworker.

We tried to brainstorm ideas on how to raise the funds. Brat stands, t-shirts, a community run. It all seemed so daunting and overwhelming.

Then, my good friend Corinne suggested a Go Fund Me, page. My response was a quick, “No.” I am a proud person and feel that as a mother I should be able to provide and care for my son.

As fast as I said, “No,” Corinne looked at me with kind loving eyes and said, “ Laura, I know you love your son but sometimes it isn’t about you. You need to put your pride aside and ask for help before something bad happens.”

“Ouch,” the honesty of that statement hit me hard right in the heart. I knew that she was right.

I knew I could not do this on my own. For the past 4 years I have felt so unbelievably alone. I was constantly looking for someone that shared my struggles. I could not find anyone.

When I would break down and share. I would be told, “my child does that too, or he will outgrow it. Family and friends completely ignored us and when we would attempt to leave the house strangers would approach us with parenting tips, dirty looks, and snide remarks. Autism has become my new identity. I felt as though I was extremely fragile.

Autism had left so many deep wounds and I had no more tears left to cry. Then Corinne dropped the second part of the bomb shell.

In order to make this fundraising adventure successful she told me that I needed to share my story. My response was horror, “You mean you want me to tell the world about my son. A world, that no one would believe. All of our family struggles we have tried to hide, you want me to lay out for the world to see. So not only was I supposed to share these dark secrets, but ask people for money.

I can’t even sell basketball raffle tickets or cookie dough how am I going to get people to understand how important this service dog is to Brayden, his future, and our family.

I wasn’t sure that I would be able to share. I didn’t want people to know that I was struggling.

I did not want anyone to know that the smile I put on is often forced and I am crying on the inside. I don’t have the answers, I am struggling to keep it all together, and am overwhelmed with fear and questions. If strangers could be mean to my face imagine what they could do behind a protective computer screen.

What if no one donates? What if they scoff at my life.

All of these thoughts haunted me. I was pretty desperate to help my son so reluctantly gave Corinne the green light to forge ahead. I began writing a little about my family, as I did something magical happened.

Sometimes God comes to you in amazing ways. As I started to share I was overwhelmed by the support that I received from readers and the community.

It all started with a 9 year-old little girl named Tali. She is one of my daughter Ava’s good friends.

I received a facebook post from her mom. Tali was holding a sign. She was putting on a bake sale for Brayden in our little town.

All of the proceeds were going to help Brayden get his Buddy. The turnout for the bake sale was overwhelming and the generosity and kindness brought tears to my eyes.

Another of my daughter’s friend Allison sold cucumbers for a cause. All of her proceeds went to Brayden’s buddy also. We were on our way to our goal.

The Volleyball team had a Brayden’s buddy night at the high school before one of the games. We sold over 200 t-shirts in one weekend. Everyone attended the event on September 6th was sporting a blue shirt. There was an amazing turn out and the energy was so high.

As I looked out over the crowd all I saw was blue. These students, parents, and community members supporting autism. The word was getting out and people started talking. This time they were asking questions, showing support, and learning. Talk about an amazing night. My heart was so touched at the kindness of this small town.

As time is going by the funds are raising. I am sharing more and more.

What I didn’t realize that through sharing I was healing. All of those deep wounds, that I kept putting bandaids on, and pulling down my sleeves, so that no one would see, were being exposed and starting to heal. I was also raising awareness about an “invisible” illness that plagues so many people.

I have had opportunities to educate, talk, and support other parents. I know that God has a plan. I know that He gave us Brayden for a very special reason.

I now have my village. A small town that bonded together to help a little boy. I

would like to thank my good friend Corinne. She helped not only raise funds but she helped me to discover who am and help me realize that I do have purpose.

I would like to thank the wonderful members of our town, and the generosity and support of friends, strangers, and angels.

I would like to thank Tali and Allison also, my 9 year-old friends that have the heart of gold. Life so is different now.

Autism is no longer the elephant in the room. The kids and adults are not afraid to talk to him, ask questions, and accept him for the wonderful little boy he is.

Thank you also to the wonderful WEAP staff Brayden has.

As one of them said, “until you love Brayden as your own, you will never get anywhere with him.”

My heart is so full and touched. Thank you to everyone who donated and supported Brayden and helping to raise funds for “Brayden’s Buddy.”

We have found our village.

Written by, Laura Eiler

Laura Eiler – mother of 5. I am looking for ways each day to find the “blessings” in autism. I know that God has given us Brayden for a special reason and I want to make sure that I fulfill his plan. Laura shares their families journey with autism at A Day in the Life of Brayden.

(Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Laura Eiler and is part of Cooper’s, ‘I’m Thankful For You’ Campaign.)

You can still nominate the doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and family that make a difference in your special needs world. Click HERE to learn how!

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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  • Susan Anderson

    January 8, 2019 at 8:54 am
    Reply

    Dear Laura, Sounds like Corinne is a true friend. I live in a small town too. Our son is now 29, and we've lived here for […] Read MoreDear Laura, Sounds like Corinne is a true friend. I live in a small town too. Our son is now 29, and we've lived here for twenty years. I've never experienced unkindness from this community in regards to our son. Yes, we have a village. I am happy for you that you'll get there for Brayden. A service dog will be great! Read Less

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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