Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Military Puzzle Pieces...

There are two things in this house that identifies with us. One, we are a proud Military family, who supports a military member. Two, we are also an Autism Family that supports not only one child with autism but two.  With April being Autism Acceptance Month, as well as Month of the Military Child, we have cause to make society aware that we are indeed a family that celebrates and accepts both.  Now most times I state, that being a parent and supporter of children with Autism is a full time gig, guiding children who live the military lifestyle, never ends,  both aspects, well into adulthood. Both things, in retrospect need to be recognized. I know that there are quite a good number of families out there that are rowing in the same boat as I am. They have children who are on the spectrum and a loved one in the military. So the month of April for us is celebrating the Military Puzzle Piece.

Now through the sea of blue, puzzle pieces and patriotic flags and yellow ribbons, most of us military families are just trying to get through not only the autism aspect of our lives, but the military aspect of our lives. Now I don't want to sit there and say that we all have it worse off, or that we are entitled to a lot. As we are all just human beings dealing with what life has given us, in the best possible way we can.I do want to touch upon what it is like for us families that have more that just one factor going on in our lives, as there is so many of us. We all have things going on in our lives. Military or Civilian. That is something that shouldn't be ignored on either side, as you never know what battles people are fighting. Nor should the strife of either side should ever be ignored or be devalued. The military is just one facet of our lives that I can talk about, as is Autism, ADHD and Fragile X, and considering the month of April encompasses two of those facets in my life, I can write about them.

April, the Month of the Military Child, started when I discovered that I was pregnant with our first born. He was born without his father being present, which like so many other military babies. My husband missed his birth by 3 days. The trend continued with our daughter. Hers, he missed by 4 months. And well Little Man's he was actually home for, which was surprising. As I look at birth certificates, we had our children all over the place. From SC to HI. As that was really the beginning of what it means to be a military child. Having a birth certificate from a far off place. Through out the years, as my children grew and started understanding what it really meant to be a child of a service member, they started to be aware of the world around them. It was my husband's deployments, that showed the world, just how resilient my children could be. The strength that they carried through the long deployments, were what got me through them. Recently we just finished doing an unaccompanied tour. For my children, it was the longest they had ever been away from their father. For those two years, they handled themselves, through everything that was thrown at them, with honor and grace. Sure they had their moments of doubt and moments of lashing out, but they are just children. And in the end, they got through it all. They might not know it now, but in the long run, it helps them deal with what life can throw at you.

April, Autism Acceptance month, started with our first diagnosis. Our daughter. A diagnosis of any kind will change what kind of parent you are. From the summer of 2008, we were now parents of a child that had Autism. At the time, we had no idea, just how much this would impact our lives. From the very start, it was an uphill battle. Not only with schools but where we were stationed, the medical support was somewhat lacking. We had terms like ABA therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy thrown at us, but with no help in getting these services for our daughter. At the time we were experiencing what so many before us had gone through. But also in a way, it opened doors for us. I found that there was a community of people who, with their own experiences, where there to help and support. And I have to say that I have met some pretty darn awesome people because of my child's diagnosis. So when it come down to figuring out what was going on with my youngest, I had people to help me through it.

There are times where these two aspects of our life combine. Where my military puzzle pieces make the world aware of just what it means to be a autistic military child. My unique children, don't always understand military protocol or deployments the way others would do. And even within our own military circles we still face ignorance. Whether or not it is at Command functions or trying to deal with our insurance not covering vital therapies that would be beneficial to our children. It's still there.  Case in point. When our daughter was just newly diagnosed, my husband had just finished his 6 wks Chief training. His pinning ceremony was in the morning. Our daughter had not seen her father for a bit, and just wanted to be with him. My husband, who wanted his children to be part of something that was important in his naval career, asked for them to be there. Which was fine, as they were not the only children there. But our daughter, didn't understand why she couldn't be with her father. At the time, she was non verbal, and made very loud guttural sounds. We got to the point where we had to pin my husband's anchors on. He held our daughter's hand while our eldest and I finished the task. When it was time to sit back down, our daughter was distressed at leaving her Daddy and started to have a meltdown. I sat back down with our children and tried my best to soothe her. One of the other wives, turned back to  me and promptly told me, to remove my child, as she was disrupting the ceremony for the rest. At time, I got up in tears and left. While this was a momentousness occasion in my husband's life, I could not get past what had happened. It was my first taste of ignorance when it came to autism and children. I had another Chief follow me to the parking lot to try to help the situation. But I will never forget the words and look on that other wife's face, as I tried my best to parent my child the best way I could.

SO the month of April, hold so much for us. Not only for Autism Acceptance, but also celebrating my children as military children. I have always held firm not to call them "Military Brats", as they are far from brats. They deal with what life has thrown at them, with more grace and honor than most adults. In truth, it isn't just about it being a month. It is our way of life, Both Autism and Military. Eventually, when my husband retires, the military aspect will lessen, but it will always be part of our lives. Our children will look back at being a military child and remember the lessons they learned about how to deal with life. The Autism aspect, will always be with us.

The thing to remember is that whatever aspects you have going on in your life, don't ever stop spreading awareness and acceptance, no matter what circles you live within.