By Janice Kern
When I found out I was pregnant, we had only been living in our community for a couple of years but I already had established some very good friendships with three special women. At that time, there were 4 children among the four of us. Kim and Jalene had two children each. When I told them along with Rachel that I was pregnant, they planned a baby shower. It’s what good friends do. There are other very special friends but these three friends stand out in the crowd and you’ll understand why.
When our son, Kenny, was born, Kim, Jalene and Rachel visited us in the hospital. I asked Kim if she would be an extra-special person and consider herself the baby’s Godmother. Of course, she would. We used this as an excuse to get together and celebrate the baby and our friendships. It goes without saying that Jalene and Rachel celebrated with us too. All our husbands were there with us every step of the way. Joe and I each have three siblings who would have gladly taken on this role as our son’s Godmother but with no family within a 3 hour drive, we wanted to give our new baby someone to think of like family who was close by according to geography. We had no idea how this would come to be so significant in the years to come.
A year later, I was pregnant again. When our second son, Charlie, was born, I asked Jalene if she would be the baby’s Godmother. Of course! We celebrated again. Rachel and Kim were there. And our husbands. And life started to get a little….busy!
A year later, I was pregant again. Our third son, Tommy was born on a snow-filled day in March. Three of our first visitors at the hospital were Rachel, Jalene and Kim. Of course other good friends and family joined in too. But, there was no delay in asking Rachel if she would let us call her this baby’s Godmother.
Kim, Jalene, and Rachel. By the time Tommy was born, there were 9 kids among the 4 of us. And life was getting a little . . . busier.
Then. . . life halted. Time stood still one day in my living room. A woman said to me “I think Charlie has autism.” I knew there had been regression and there was something wrong but I had barely heard of autism and knew one person in the entire world with that diagnosis. Charlie couldn’t possibly have that. We decided to either rule out or confirm the therapists’s suspicions as well as our concerns and took Charlie to see a pediatric psychiatrist/neurologist. I told Rachel, Kim and Jalene what was happening. None of us really knew what this meant. But when we came home, supper was made. By these amazing friends. We told them Charlie was likely going to be diagnosed with autism officially. There is no reaction for this. We were the first family they knew to go through this.
Two years later, Jalene noticed that her son, Ethan was losing skills. He was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2. It’s been 8 years since that day and I still can’t believe it. It’s difficult to say this but because of them, our life got better. We were no longer “the only ones”. But if we could have remained the only ones, we would have.
Eight years later, Rachel had concerns about her youngest child, Keegan. He was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Shortly after his diagnosis, Rachel was in my living room for a fundraising event for TACA. She shared with people that Keegan was recently diagnosed with autism. My biggest concern at that moment wasn’t about Keegan. It was about everyone’s reaction upon hearing his diagnosis. I was relieved that they were shocked and concerned and expressed disbelief. Thank goodness my friends and neighbors were shocked, concerned and in disbelief. A diagnosis that was once so rare I had to describe it and explain it to people has grown to epidemic proportions and that is something to be shocked about. They were completely shocked.
Kim’s family is not affected by autism. What I mean is that none of her children has a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. However, her family is significantly affected by autism through our families. Her husband is never seen without a TACA wristband on his arm and they both financially support TACA every year as a way to help our families and others. They epsecially notice the hard work and challenges autism brings and cheer us on while noticing progress.
Collectively, the four of us now have 17 children. Three of those 17 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Fortunately all three of our children with autism have made significant progress. We are all involved with TACA and utilize the help of therapists, doctors, great teachers, family and friends.
I grew up going to my grandparent’s farm. They had ten children and thirty-five grandchildren. Of those thirty-five grandchildren, zero were diagnosed with autism. There is not better diagnosis that is causing there to be a higher number of cases of autism. It’s not as though some of my cousins actually had autism but they were “missed” by doctors. None of my cousins were diagnosed with autism because none of them had autism.
The latest announcement from the CDC regarding the rate of autism as 1 in 68 children is shocking. We are all affected when numbers are of this magnitude.
TACA Conference Coordinator & North Dakota Chapter Co-Coordinator
Want 2 minutes of inspiration? Watch this video of my son affected by autism and see his progress thanks to many friends, doctors, teachers, therapies and of course help from TACA.
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