In this episode, I am talking to Katie Poirier who was a former physician’s assistant and is now a stay-at-home mom to two kids under two. She talks about the birth of both of her children, Everett and Isla, Postpartum Depression, and her story about recently getting an autism Diagnosis for her first child, Everett.
It is an amazing conversation about Katie’s story, her growth, and how she has been able to find strength through shared experiences with other autism moms.
How the Autism Diagnosis Began
“You never think that certain delays or differences mean autism.”
Autism wasn’t on their radar. Katie and her husband, Jason, were concerned about Everett’s language development. The pediatrician reassured them that boys were simply late bloomers.
They began to become more concerned when they saw his development in comparison to other kids. Katie had a friend whose child was born a month later and was already saying words.
Her husband had a friend that recommended they see a speech-language pathologist. So, they made an appointment and three women, an early childhood educator, a speech-language pathologist, and a caseworker, came out to her house to evaluate her son. She says that it was the worst day of her life. That was when they told her that Everett was a high risk for autism.
They had given Everett an M-CHAT screening test and told her that he was high risk according to their evaluation. At that moment, she completely disagreed with them. She wasn’t in a place to listen to what they had to say or be objective. Her husband Jason didn’t believe it either.
What is the M-CHAT Test?
The M-CHAT is a pre autism screening that you can get online. You will answer 20 questions and in the end, you can get a score based on the level your child is at. They recommend that this screening be performed at an 18-month appointment. You can do it by yourself, but it is helpful to do it with your pediatrician because they can effectively look at the behavior and provide further guidance and clarification.
Why They Disagreed with The M-CHAT
Katie and Jason had a lot of the same misconceptions about autism. They thought that their kid seemed social to them and very affectionate so he couldn’t have autism. Everett seemed so happy and joy-filled and loved to be chased and tickled. They didn’t think those things added up to what they knew about autism. The picture that society has painted for us is a kid in the corner that doesn’t respond and rocks back and forth. When we see our kids playing, they don’t seem to fit that box. So we think it can’t be true.
Thoughts On ABA Therapy
Shortly after his diagnosis, they began ABA and Speech Therapy for Everett. He seems to like ABA; however, it has been challenging because they’ve switched a few different therapists in and out. They only had ABA for a few months and he was just starting to get acclimated to it when they had to cancel due to COVID.
At the beginning with Remy, I thought, “When are we going to see changes?” When I look back, I see that it takes a long time because a lot of the skills that they acquire are skills that have to be done in repetition and it takes time to get used to it. It’s like a new language. It doesn’t happen overnight and it won’t fix your child or change them in a month or two.
How Finding Your Tribe Can Help You Cope
For Katie, it was a rough introduction to motherhood. One of the reasons she started blogging and began her Instagram account was because she felt so isolated and alone in her experience dealing with PPD and a baby that had colic. She wasn’t enjoying motherhood and all she saw online were these angelic portrayals of motherhood. She knew she needed to be interacting and connecting with people. She thought, “how can I show motherhood in a way that is real and shows it’s okay if you don’t bond immediately with your baby, or you have breastfeeding issues, and that you are still a good mom despite that?” So, that’s how she has been coping. It really helped her to both write and connect with other women who get it.
A lot of times as moms, we focus so much on our children, which is wonderful and important, but what do we have to help us? When we are pouring so much of ourselves into our kids, we need other areas to lean on for support.
How Autism Changed Her Life
Katie felt like she was grieving for a while. She went back and forward through the stages of grief. Now, she tries to focus on being thankful for the means to better understand her son. They are just trying to figure out his world and how to get into it. She says that being a mother has changed her. “In light of Everett’s autism diagnosis, I appreciate how he views the world and how he stops to appreciate things that I would otherwise never notice. There is so much beauty in the world of autism. Having a child with autism who picks up on the details of the world is a really special thing.”
I believe that our kids are given to us for a reason. Everett was given to Katie for a reason. Each step and stage will come with different challenges and surprises. Our children will always surprise us and show that most of our fears won’t come true. But it is hard to sit with the unknown and be okay with that.
Advice for Moms Just Trying to Figure It Out
If you have thoughts or doubts about your child’s development, go ahead and contact Early Intervention. It doesn’t hurt to get the ball rolling and it can only help. If everything turns out to be no concern, then it doesn’t harm anything. And if you get the autism diagnosis, it doesn’t change your child at all.
“I looked at Everett the next day and thought that things were different. But it doesn’t actually matter. They are still your same perfect, wonderful child as they were before the autism diagnosis. Once I began focusing on that, it made the diagnosis much easier.”
- ABA takes a long time because a lot of the skills that kids acquire are skills that have to be done in repetition and it takes time to get used to it. It has to happen over time and it won’t change them instantly. You have to be patient and let the habits develop slowly.
- A lot of times as moms, we focus so much on our children, without thinking about ourselves. It is important when we are pouring so much of ourselves into our kids, we lean on others in our tribe for support.
- It is okay to grieve. Katie went back and forth through the different stages of grief for a while. But she can see the beauty of autism and the beauty of her son and how he is different in his unique way.
- Our children were given to us for a reason. They were meant to change us and others around them. Often, most of our fears won’t even come true, and our kids will surprise us with what they can accomplish.
- Contacting Early Intervention or other places to get a test can only be a good thing. It can’t hurt to run a test or get a diagnosis. If your child doesn’t have autism or special needs, then at least you know. And if they do, you will be able to get so many more resources for them with a confirmed diagnosis.