I am so excited to have Brittney Crabtree on my podcast today to share her story. So many of us are scared when you think about getting an autism diagnosis. It feels like we’re alone on an island and no one could possibly understand. Brittney is the mother of 4, 2 of which have autism. Brittney was one of the first moms I met after Remy was diagnosed with autism who had walked the walk. Her story is one that needs to be heard and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to bring her story to you.

 Where The Journey To a Diagnosis Began 

Brittney is a wife and a mom of four children, two with autism, and she currently lives in Northern California. When her son Austin was about 18 months old, she began to notice that some things were off. He was not speaking at all or making a lot of eye contact, and there were a lot of repetitive and strange behaviors. Brittney had an older son already, who was 2 years old, so she could tell that things weren’t the same this time around. 

When she talked to Austin’s pediatrician, they said that he might just be a little slower. She still felt that something was wrong. She had heard the word autism before, and she figured it was probably something like that. When Brittney brought Austin in for his two-year appointment, he was stemming, and running back and forth along the exam table. The pediatrician walked in, looked at him, and her eyes got huge. She said, “Yes, we’re dealing with autism here.”

Brittney became pregnant with her third son Tyler when Austin was four months old, so she had three children, 3 ½ and under when Austin was diagnosed. Three weeks later they got an appointment with a pediatric neurologist. The doctor came in, took a look at him, had her fill out a questionnaire, and gave her the confirmation. It was very clinical and sterile. He gave her the number of an agency that could provide therapies for him and simply told her, “Good luck.”

Alta Regional Center

The number he gave her was for a regional center called Alta Regional Center. It is a liaison between the state and your county to help you receive special needs services. They got involved with them and had someone come out and interview her and Austin. Brittney also went to a clinical psychologist where they did another evaluation for their son. Brittney and her husband Doug felt super overwhelmed and in shock a little bit after the visit. But once Alta received both of those diagnoses, they were set to receive services for Austin. 

Why Getting To Know Your Neighbors Is So Important

Something Brittney suggests is to get to know your neighbors. If you feel comfortable enough, knock on your door with your child and explain what they will or won’t do or what could happen. Austin has escaped from their house before. Thankfully they have always found him fairly quickly, or a neighbor or someone close has found him and let them know within a couple of minutes. Ninety-nine percent of the time, people will be very nice, accommodating, and helpful. You never know when they might be able to catch something that you didn’t!

A Second Diagnosis

Brittney’s youngest daughter Ruby also has autism. After their last son was born, they waited six years, but they felt promptings from God that they should have one more. Brittney was ready for an autism diagnosis. She was prepared to accept it if that came. Everything seemed perfect and normal when Ruby was born, but when she was around a year old, Brittney noticed that Ruby was behind in some development. 

She was speaking, but she wasn’t speaking as much as she should have. She didn’t have the stemming and repetitive behaviors, but the speech was the most concerning. Brittney called Alta Regional Center and they had her assessed. With Ruby, it was more of a standard progression. At two years old, they had her evaluated and sure enough, she qualified for an autism diagnosis. 

Why an Autism Diagnosis is So Important 

The services and opportunities that you can receive professionally can change if you receive a diagnosis. It’s scary because what if it’s true? Your whole world changes. But when you have that diagnosis, you can get professional help from people. If you don’t have it, you can still get help, but it might not be covered by insurance or the school district and it might be much harder to convince those professionals to help you.

For a lot of people, they are so scared of hearing that word that they don’t want to go through it. But as the kids get older, they are missing opportunities that could help them. So it is SO important. You’ll have some bad moments, but it is worth it to get it.

Accepting Her Son’s Diagnosis 

Brittney accepted the diagnosis as far as understanding that they had to work immediately on getting services, but Doug was more emotionally accepting of it. He looked at it and said, “It’s a blessing. I am glad that he has autism.” It took her a lot longer to come to a place where she could accept the unacceptable. His example and acceptance of it was a huge help because he was the one that convinced her that it is okay.

As a special needs parent or a parent of anyone, things are always going to change. It’s not necessarily going to get easier or harder, but it is all change and you have to constantly work to accept your new life or reality. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a muscle that you have to strengthen every day.

Why Therapy is a Good Thing

Brittney has people that she can talk to like her husband, family and close friends, but sometimes it’s not the same as having someone who is professionally trained and who can offer a perspective that is removed from the situation and is not personally involved. She said, “I suggest therapy for anyone who feels like they need an outlet to feel safe and express their concerns, feelings, and thoughts.”

When looking for a therapist, you need to find two or three people, have a meeting with them and try them out. If you don’t like them after one or two or ten visits, you can stop. You don’t have to keep seeing them. Brittney talks about her process and how she went about finding and connecting with her amazing therapist. 

Finding an Outlet

When I met Brittney, I asked her how she copes with raising four kids, two of them having autism, and she said, “I make cookies.” Brittney talks about how she started baking and decorating cookies and turned it into a small business called Ruby Cakes Cookies. It is her outlet to block out things that have happened that day and just focus on making something beautiful that will make someone else’s life happier and more beautiful through her baking. 

 What To Remember After a Diagnosis 

Always remember that things change. It may not necessarily get easier, but it will change. You won’t be stuck in the same loop forever.

Every step of this journey for Brittney into the unknown, every diagnosis, therapist appointment, every piece of bad news, every negative or positive interaction with someone at a park, playground or school, it has gotten a little bit easier to recover from that thing.

When you experience a negative thing in your life, eventually you recover and move on, and every new time those negative things happen, the next time it becomes easier. It comes with experience, time, and learning how to cope while building those people around you who can bring you back. You will get faster at recovering from all of it.

Important Takeaways

  1. Listen to your gut. If you don’t feel like something is right or you really should be doing this other thing, try it out and listen to that inner voice because it’s important and probably right most of the time. 
  2. Typically when we have kids with autism, there is no one around us that is in that same kind of world, and nobody gets it unless you are raising a child with autism. I recommend the Early Start Denver Model book to EVERY parent that has just gotten an autism diagnosis because it guides you on how to interact with your child. Brittney and I were so lucky that we got to take this training for twelve weeks and apply those strategies to our kids.
  3. Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself and your child to your neighbors if you feel comfortable enough. The majority of the time, people will be very nice, accommodating, and helpful. You never know when they might be able to catch something that you didn’t, like your child eloping outside without your notice. 
  4. Getting an official diagnosis for your child is so important because it makes things so much easier when you are looking for professional help. If you do not have one, services might not be covered by insurance or the school district. 
  5. Therapy is such a helpful tool and an amazing outlet to have. A therapist can provide a perspective that isn’t clouded by being personally involved and can often have fresh insight into situations. It’s also a great way to relieve tension and vent about anything that is going on. 

Resources

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