Autism Awareness Month: A Personal Story

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we’re featuring a guest blog post from Bridgette Montgomery, a therapist and mother of six-year-old autistic son Josiah. She is sharing her personal story to spread awareness of autism and the importance of early diagnosis.

April is Autism Awareness Month.  It is my goal to spread awareness to everyone about this developmental disability, known as ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Autism affects 1 in every 68 individuals.  More boys are affected by this disorder than girls.  Research shows that it is four to five times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.  Currently, there is no single cause or known cure for Autism Disorder, just as there is not one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by themselves. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors.

Autism varies in degrees of functioning – from severely low functioning to very high functioning. Each individual with autism is unique. Many individuals that are on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. You will find that many people on the spectrum take pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world, while others with autism have significant disabilities and are unable to live independently. Nevertheless what classifies all autistic children as being autistic are the following defining characteristics:

  1. Difficulty in social interaction;
  2. Difficulty with verbal and non verbal communication;
  3. Repetitive behaviors (which some would call OCD);
  4. And some have sensory disorders.

As a mother and professional psychotherapist of a six year old autistic son, I have faced my challenges. My son, Josiah Montgomery, received his diagnosis at age 4, right before entering kindergarten. Prior to starting kindergarten, I had to go through a series of assessments and tests for my son to identify what was going on with him.  Although the behaviors were quite subtle, they were distinctive enough for me, his mother, to recognize that he was in distress most of the time. His gazes, wailing at night, and super independent nature alerted me enough to seek out help.  He was assessed by early intervention and began receiving services at 18 months.  I believe it was my skill set as a clinician/social worker that helped me to identify that my son was not developing typically for his age.

As a first-time mom, I don’t think I would have acknowledged that my son had missed some milestones while being extremely advanced in other areas. My husband, who was a father prior to us having our son together, didn’t see anything wrong. Initially he stated, “He’ll grow at his own pace.  Don’t worry honey, everything is fine.”  I’m extremely grateful that my husband was open-minded enough to pay closer attention to what was going on.  Had he not been open-minded, we may not have followed through with actively seeking services and getting the proper help for my son early on. I believe it was our quick response and my prior knowledge about developmental disorders that helped me help my son, which contributed to his ability to be able to learn to speak and handle various behaviors and sensory related issues much better.

Today, my son is growing and developing well.  He is an extremely gifted reader, a wiz with numbers, and he has a photographic memory.  He has a winning personality and he loves making friends.  Although he has many great strengths, he still struggles with many of the characteristics that I described above, and some on a daily basis.  What becomes extremely challenging for me, as a parent, is that not everyone seems to understand why he behaves the way that he does.  We’ve been through multiple providers and have had our challenges with daycare centers and workers.  It’s been a difficult progression, but we grow and learn more and more about his needs and disability with each day that passes.

This is my life, and this is my story.  I live it and deal with it everyday and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My son is special and unique to me, as any child is to their parents.  He has been perfectly designed by my God.  I love him with all my heart and I want the world to know that I love someone with autism.  I love my autistic son. #TeamJosiah #AutismSpeaks #LIUB

Follow Bridgette on Facebook or visit her website to learn more about her work.

Bridge of Love II LLC