Meet Thomas and Ariana from Quebec
My children are unique and special little people whom although non-verbal, have so much to communicate to us.
Thomas and Ariana were both diagnosed with autism when they were 2.5 years old. Although the young siblings share this diagnosis, they are very different.
Thomas, who is now 7, loves being outside and loves animals, especially horses. He enjoys going to the park or playing in the backyard where he has a mini pool, trampoline, and sandbox. He has recently started playing with a rubix cube and is quite good at it. Thomas is a picky eater, but he has recently started to love pizza!
Ariana, who is now 5, loves playing with her dolls and toys. She really loves playing with clothing and accessories and will dress her stuffed animals with hats and sunglasses. She also has a love of shoes. Ariana loves colouring and arts and crafts – especially sparkles! She’s a very social girl who loves giving hugs and is very warm when meeting new people. She has a real sweet tooth and loves to sneak chocolate chips while helping bake cookies.
Learn more about Thomas and Ariana’s autism journey through this Q&A with their Mom, Charlotte. Thank you, Charlotte, for your dedication, honesty, and beautiful voice on behalf of your children and others.
What is your connection to autism, and how has it affected your life as a parent?
I am a proud mom of two young children diagnosed with autism – Thomas age 7 and Ariana age 5. The life of a family with two children with autism is definitely not an easy one. It has its ups and downs. I do try to focus on the positive sides of life and of our family, despite our struggles. My children are unique and special little people whom although non-verbal, have so much to communicate to us. I try to grow as a parent and to share our journey through charity projects and through social media channels to help other families to know that they are not alone. Our family is might not conform to certain norms in society, but I like to think of us as a “perfectly imperfect” little family.
What supports and services have helped your family in your autism journey?
Finding the right fit in terms of therapy for my children has been a journey in itself. Ariana and Thomas are so different from each other, and thus what works for one of them might not work for the other. I did end up finding some good services through ABA therapy and Occupational therapy. I am hoping soon to find a speech therapist for the both of them. One of the best things that my husband and I have done since the kids' diagnosis was to take a class in ABA therapy ourselves. We also attended a conference in RDI therapy in which we learned some valuable things to practice at home.
What is unique about being an autism parent?
I feel that being an autism parent definitely gives me a unique perspective on life. I feel that every person has their own struggles in life and that it’s how you confront them and tackle them that helps to shape you as a person. Our difficulties have given me strength, growth, hope and understanding as well as a deep need to help other families like mine.
What struggles have you and your family faced during your autism journey?
After Thomas was first diagnosed, we were quite fortunate with finding two wonderful ABA therapist to work with him. However we struggle with finding therapists who don’t move on to find more stable positions elsewhere or leave the province. After two years of a wonderful team for Thomas, we were not sure where to find a good team for him, and additionally at that point we also needed to start services for Ariana. We had a tough time and I feel were taken advantage of financially by a couple of companies, resulting in a waste of about $8,000. We ended up finding a very trustworthy company after that and we’ve continued to work with them ever since. But I will always remember the mistakes I made, which is why I try to support other parents with guidance and support when I can through my facebook and Instagram groups. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned through both our successes and our mistakes we’ve made.
How has your family supported you through your autism journey?
My husband and I are very fortunate to have had a lot of support through our parents. We’ve been able to have a hand from them often, offering respite and support. My sisters are also very supportive and each help in their own ways. One of my sisters is a nurse and having a nurse in the family has definitely proved helpful in raising children. Another sister is a reiki master and often helps to ground me when life gets stressful. She has also helped me tremendously with my charity projects, taking on a supportive role since the beginning.
Has your life been impacted by Coronavirus? What are your some of your goals and hope for the future?
Coronavirus has definitely impacted our family. I am so thankful that our family is healthy and safe, and that is the most important thing. But indeed, the pandemic has brought its challenges. We lost access to our therapy services, our support system. But we’ve been adapting and managing. School has been the best support for the kids when they reopened, however we’ve had to quarantine 3 times since the start of school, so we just try to appreciate school when they are able to attend. The teachers have been wonderful this year, and that really helps.
Truthfully, I’d love to see real changes made in terms of government support of special needs families. There are simply not enough resources for us. Additionally, I’d love to see a lot more acceptance and understanding in society of people that are deemed “different”. On a personal level, I just want my children to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives and that they know how loved and wanted they are.
What advice would you give to parents of children recently diagnosed with autism, wondering what the future holds for them?
I would advise parents to start their journey first by building a solid support system. Call upon family or friends for support and let them know how they can help you. Thoroughly research a good therapy team. When you are assigned a social worker (which may take time) communicate with them often. Develop a good relationship with the teachers and with the special need's coordinator at the school board. And lastly, join parent groups on social media for both information and support.
Why are you interested in becoming an Autism Speaks Canada Ambassador?
I think that my family becoming an ambassador is a wonderful way to share our journey and connect with other families like ours. We can all learn from each other and support each other, regardless of where we are at in our own journeys.
Please join us in helping create a kinder more inclusive world for people with autism. Show your support for Thomas, Ariana, and other people with autism by donating generously.
Disclaimer: These are subjective opinions and real experiences of autistic people across Canada. Autism Speaks Canada does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks Canada provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties.