Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

A Mother’s Account of Autism

As part of our efforts to create awareness for Autism Awareness Month, Des Moines Moms Blog is honored to have local Mom, Patty Graziano guest post for us today.

Patty shares first-hand her experience as a Mother of a child with autism:

Most children love surprises. Christmas morning, birthday celebrations, a visit from Grandma. That isn’t the case in my house. My daughter has PDD-NOS, which is on the autism spectrum.  Surprises are most unwelcome.  We need to give her plenty of warning. One extra errand can be disastrous. Birthday parties need a lot of prep. Where it is, what will happen, who will be there, will it be crowded.  A substitute teacher nearly always means a bad day.

Because of this my day is very rigidly scheduled. Breakfast and lunch are always the same. I make a menu for the week on Sundays, which is put on her iPad so that she can see what is for dinner each night. Her service dog goes into school every day for her break and a difficult transition. I pick her up from school every day because she can’t hold it together for that last half hour on the bus. After school she gets about an hour to herself.  This time is vital so that she can decompress before we go to therapy. Bedtime is very structured.  Insomnia often accompanies autism. She gets a long bath every night, with bubbles, music, aromatherapy candles, the works! And if she can’t sleep I have to bring her in late to school and the whole process repeats again. Saturday is her day off, where she can do whatever she wants. And Sunday is ballet class, Dance without Limits through Ballet Des Moines.

There are lots of places that are difficult for her to go to. The grocery store is the worst. Fluorescent lights, lots of displays, different smells, the hum of freezers, and all of the people. This overload of sensory information is overwhelming to people on the autism spectrum. Malls are also tough. Anywhere with big crowds is off limits unless we do a lot of preparation.  And a large group singing “Happy Birthday” is intolerable to her. There are have been many places that we have been asked to leave and many places that we can’t even try.

With all of that said, she is absolutely incredible. She loves to read non-fiction and we encourage every interest she has. Her current love is anatomy. She spent a day with a West Des Moines paramedic learning how to read a 12 line EKG and how to intubate. This summer we are spending time at West Point in New York with a civil engineering professor. It is vital to show individuals on the autism spectrum how their passions can translate into a career, and it is never too early to start. She also loves music, and with a husband who is a band director she is in good hands.

My son is also amazing. We had the autism talk a few months ago. We have never made a secret of his sister’s differences. He is patient with her when she needs it, and pushes her to be social when it is necessary too. He has been a link between her and the rest of the kids on the block.

One of the most amazing things is how everyone feels connected to her, while she struggles connecting to others. The first time she engaged with a peer I cried with all of the Easter Seals camp counselors. The first time she knocked on a door and asked a friend to play, all the parents on my block celebrated. The first time a peer asked her to sit with him at lunch the whole school faculty knew about it.

So if you see a house with a blue light bulb on it, know that that household is also celebrating the successes of someone with autism.  That they deal with the same challenges and struggles. Know they are warriors and please consider standing along side them in their battle.


Meet Guest Blogger Patty Graziano:

Patty_5x7 (2)Patty Graziano lives in Waukee with her husband and her two children.  Her daughter who is 8 has PDD-NOS, on the autism spectrum, and her son who is 6 and neurotypical.

She is a former physics teacher with a Masters degree in educational studies.  Currently she is a private tutor and a grant writer for the non-profit organization Let’s Soar Together.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, cooking, and biking.

Thanks for being a part of Des Moines Moms Blog, Patty, and for sharing your journey as a Mom. Thank you for being an amazing resources to our community. 

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2 Responses to A Mother’s Account of Autism

  1. Angela Squires
    Angela Squires April 26, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this on the blog today, Patty. As someone who has no experience with autism, I understand so little about it; so thank you for helping people like me to be more aware of the struggles you face and the successes you celebrate. Many blessings to you and your family!

  2. Reagan April 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Thank you for sharing about your daughter and your family. Your willingness to be open and honest about the joys and trials of raising a child with autism is invaluable for so many people.

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