Michelle + Jacob + Alyssa: Life with Autism
I am so excited to share this interview with you all because not only is Michelle such a strong and positive woman, but she is also a part of the Blogger Babes!
So after you fall in love with her from this interview, you can go check out her blog! Win-win!
Remember, these interviews are meant to spread awareness and a personal perspective on a condition. Please be kind, respectful, and most of all supportive!
Now, I am going to get straight into this interview and let Michelle speak for herself.
Michelle + Jacob + Alyssa
1. Tell us about yourself!
Hey there, I’m Michelle. We live in Sumner, WA (which is approximately an hour away from Seattle.) When I’m not busy running after my herd of not-so-tiny humans, I love immersing myself in a good book. I run autismmomlife.com, where I help mothers of children with Autism live out their best life, in the midst of the chaos that comes with raising a child with special needs.
I’m a Harry Potter nerd, Pilates-ninja-wanna-be, and lover of all things chocolate, coffee, and wine.
2. Tell us about your family.
I met my husband when I was nineteen. We have three spunky kids with two on the Autism Spectrum. Jacob is our oldest, Alyssa-Jane is our middle child, and Hailey is our youngest child. We love going to the beach, weather permitting, and riding our bikes.
3. Tell us about your children.
Jacob is twelve years old, and has classic Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Speech Apraxia. He’s pretty laid back, a happy go lucky kiddo, who is on the verge of becoming a teen. We’re beginning to see signs of stubbornness emerge as he’s getting older. Jacob isn’t able to speak, and we’re working with him on a letterboard, keyboarding, and on his proloquo2go program on his iPad (it’s a touch to speak program). He loves swimming, listening to music, and jumping on the trampoline. He’s quite an active kid.
Alyssa is nine years old, and has Aspergers and ADHD. She’s incredibly sweet, and tries to help out as much as she can. She loves musicals, singing, and dancing. Alyssa has recently joined choir, and we’ve seen her really shine through this creative outlet. She also enjoys bike rides, and loves swimming.
4. When and how were your children diagnosed?
Jacob was diagnosed by his pediatrician when he was two, but didn’t receive an official diagnosis from a Neurologist until he was 2.5. I had concerns about Jacob’s delay in hitting milestones. He was hitting all the physical milestones, but didn’t show interest in his peers or even with us. He babbled, but didn’t have any words. By the time he was 15 months, I knew that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t realize at the time that those were signs of Autism. His pediatrician wanted to give him more time, and thought he was simply delayed in those areas.
Alyssa was diagnosed by a neurologist towards the end of first grade. We knew something was wrong, she was having difficulties with friendships, would get fixated on one subject, and lacked the social/emotional maturity that her peers had.
5. What were your initial thoughts/questions after they were diagnosed?
While Alyssa’s diagnosis wasn’t a shock for us, it was still difficult for us to navigate. She didn’t qualify for a typical IEP, so learning about 504 Plans was challenging for us. We also struggled with how to really help her improve her social skills with her peers. It was overwhelming to know that we have two children with special needs, and trying to manage the needs of all of our kids.
6. What are some obstacles your children face?
Although, I can’t imagine what our son is going through emotionally, I can only share what I can physically witness. Since, our son isn’t able to communicate effective (aside from some sign language and lesson based questions), he’s very much isolated and frustrated. And in many ways, trapped in this world that we know nothing of. Some days, he cries. Some days he’s physically aggressive towards us (we try to keep the girls away from him when he’s having a meltdown).
I couldn’t imagine being in a world where I couldn’t communicate. Where I’m utterly alone in many ways, and don’t have any friends. Trying to understand things from his perspective helps us to get through some of the more challenging days.
Alyssa really struggles with friendships, and being bullied or teased at school. She’s different, and some of peers aren’t kind. Being a large crowd, or noisy places really bothers her, and she’ll sometimes have breakdowns at school due to sensory overload,
7. How does this affect your daily life?
Our family activities revolve around Jacob. If he’s having a meltdown at an activity or event, we usually have to leave. Whenever possible we do try to take separate cars, so one of us can remain with the girls. We’re unable to attend typical functions, like church service, parties (unless it’s in someone’s home that he’s comfortable in), or events as a whole family.
Similarly, Alyssa also challenges with too much noise and crowded places, so we often have to go to places off-season or during unpopular hours.
8. What do you with other people knew about your children?
A child, regardless of their special needs is still a child with limitless possibilities. Be kind, always and love them like you would any child.
9. How could your friends and family be more supportive?
Getting help with childcare, taking on of our kids out for an outing so we could get a break, and simply lending an ear would be helpful. Oftentimes, if we’re having a hard time with our child, we just need someone to lend an ear. No matter how much someone may think they know about our son (or daughter) or our situation, they can’t fathom what we or any parent with special needs go through. Offer support, not advice.
10. What do YOU need? (Mamas are so often forgotten about so it’s so important to ask this question.).
I know we all could use more hours in our day, but since that’s not possible, I’d really like to outsource and automate as much as possible. I really need to start looking for a caregiver for our son, which would really help me to be able to pour into our family more. (More mommy friends are always good too!)
11. Closing thoughts, or just anything else you’d like to add?
You’re the heart of the home. Make sure to take care of yourself. Self-care doesn’t have to look like getting a mani/pedi, it can be anything and everything in between. If you’re not taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, you won’t be able to pour into anyone else. Find what lights you up, even if it’s something simple. And make it a priority. Even, if it’s 30 minutes a day, carve out that quiet reading time, or take your kids to the park and pop in earbuds to your favorite audiobook.
And wherever you are, be all in. Fully engaged in what’s in front of you. Take time to celebrate the little things in life. Those are the joy-filled moments we often miss-- the lego building, the mess making, the spilled milk. Don’t get caught up in the hustle, the busy, and what many consider normal. Slow down, mama, and embrace each moment fully.
12. How can people reach out to you?
I’d love to connect with you!
You can find me at: www.autismmomlife.com.
You can reach me directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to connect with you on Instagram: www.instagram.com/michelleslach
I have a FREEBIE library full of resources just for mamas. Some are Autism specific, and others, like my guide to Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation serves all mamas.
Again, Michelle, thank you for sharing your perspective on motherhood! I loved getting to know you better, and just know you will be able to help so many people out there. You are such a light and it is truly a blessing to know you!
If you would like to be interviewed please send an email to email@example.com or reach out to me on my Instagram which is lilylburton. I want my blog to be a platform for moms of all walks of life so we can all learn and grow with one another.