Autism Affects the Whole Family
By Rachel Ousley
“I’m living in the here and now day to day with Jacey and Jacey is my Autism” says Amy Brooks, mother of five including four year old Jacey with Autism.
Jacey was a different baby from day one. When her development was behind schedule, her parents thought she was a late bloomer. However, by the age of two they knew something wasn't right. Amy says, “its definitely heart wrenching because you think oh maybe it’s something else she’ll grow out of. And then they say Autism and its like huh, that’s life long”.
It took some time for denial to wash away and a new reality to settle in. Amy says, “alright well, I’ve had my pity party, now what do we do for Jacey”.
A diagnosis of Autism means life as they knew it changes forever and it’s time to adapt. Amy says, “I thought I had parenting down when I had my first two kids and then I had Jacey”.
Seemingly simple communication is one of the biggest challenges. Amy uses the analogy, “can you imagine going and living in France or some other country where nobody understands a word you’re saying and you don’t understand them”.
The usual logical thinking approach to parenting just doesn’t work with a child like Jacey. Amy says, “she sees the hear and now and she doesn’t necessarily understand what she did was wrong”.
“I just try to make sure that I have eyes on Jacey” says Amy. Caring for a child with Autism is difficult on parents and it's not easy for siblings either. When I asked Jacey’s eight year old sister, Bailey, is she loves Jacey, Bailey hesitated and said she can, but sometimes it’s hard to. Bailey explains, “I tell her no, but she doesn’t stop”.
Their six year old brother, Carsten, agrees, “she (Jacey) makes me frustrated”. He adds, “when she gets into my room and I don’t want her in, I close the door and lock it”. So Jacey’s siblings learned to adjust. For instance Bailey has a toolbox she keeps all the things she doesn’t want Jacey to get into under lock and key.
Bailey and Carsten learned early on that they can't come first all the time. Bailey says, “sometimes she gets most attention”. Carsten says, “I don’t need all the attention. She only gets 1 adult’s attention, so I can talk to the other adult”. Amy explains to make sure no one ever feel left out they “take kids on individual little dates with mom or dad”.
Even with the added stress, such as having to keep all doors locked. They are still a family. Amy says, “Bailey’s like a big mom to her. She’s very sweet and loving”. Carsten says, “I do love my sister”. Bailey explains, “I have to tell her no because she doesn’t understand that much. She’s not that old and she has Autism, so she doesn’t understand as much”. Amy says, “when they’re sleeping and you go and see them, it completely washes away anything that happened that day”.
Jacey is doing better than they ever thought possible. She has about 200 words now and will be starting kindergarten in a regular education classroom in the fall. The goal is that Jacey will be able to one day be an independent contributing member of society and with the path she's on at just four years old, she's on her way.