Ashley Taylor is the assistant manager at Service Loan and a single mother. Her daughter, Erin Fleming (9), is on the Autism Spectrum.
WP: How old was your daughter when she was diagnosed with autism? What were some of the signs that there was something different about her?
AT: Erin was diagnosed at the age of 18 months. The main signs I noticed was her never responding to her name, and she would focus on the same things repeatedly. For example, constantly spinning wheels on toys and never playing with toys correctly, no matter how many times I tried to show her. Another incident that stood out was filling out developmental paperwork at the pediatrician’s office. She was nowhere near the milestones she should have been. I noticed all the signs when she was 15 months old, however, psychologists would not test her until 18 months old.
WP: What are some of the unique challenges you feel you’ve faced as the parent of an autistic child?
AT: There are two things that I feel like are unique challenges. One is communication. Children with Autism get frustrated if you do not understand what they are trying to tell you. I understood what Erin said to me recently, and she was filled with joy because I was able to understand her. Another challenge is when we are in public. People tend to stare and think she is just a bad child. That is why my motto is to always be kind because you never know what someone is going through.
WP: What’s one thing you wish other people understood about autistic children?
AT: Children with Autism are very smart. Even if they can’t communicate, they know exactly what is going on in the world around them. My main suggestion would be to talk to them like you would to any other child. They understand what is being said to them. They just can’t communicate the same as other children do.
WP: What advice would you give to parents who have just learned their child has autism?
I was a wreck mentally when I first found out and even a little in denial. The advice I would give is to be patient and read anything you can about Autism. There are many books you can read to retrieve more information and a better understanding. Also, getting private therapy is the best, and it helped Erin a lot. The younger they are, the more the therapy helps. Depending on the severity of Autism, there is feeding therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and speech therapy.
WP: Being a mom is hectic and being the parent of a special needs child even more so. How do you avoid mom burnout? What does self-care look like for you?
AT: To avoid mom burnout, I take one day a week for myself to go out with friends or have alone time at home. My just having a day to myself is also self-care.
WP: If you could, what one chore would you forever outsource?
AT: Laundry: I despise it.
WP: You’ve heard the saying, ‘it takes a village.’ Is there anyone who’s helped you through this parenting journey so far that you’d like to recognize?
AT: It really does take a village. My village consists of Erin’s father, my father, brother, sister, and my grandparents.
WP: School is back in session. Are your kids attending in-person or did you choose virtual learning, and why?
AT: My daughter is attending in-person learning due to her having Autism. She does great with in-person learning experiences, and she needs the interaction. Last year when schools closed, I feel like she went backwards with learning instead of forward.
WP: Between school, homework, and extracurricular activities, life can get crazy. Do you have any organization or time management hacks that keep things running smoothly?
AT: Most children with Autism love a good schedule. I have a calendar/journal to keep us on tasks. Certain things must be done at certain times. Things can get hectic during the week. Figuring out a good schedule really helps a lot.
WP: Looking back over the last year, what would you say is the best thing to happen for your family despite the pandemic?
AT: The best thing to happen to us is that the pandemic has brought some family members closer together. I also taught my daughter at home during school closures, and it gave me a better understanding of what she does at school daily.
WP: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
AT: To be humble.
WP: Do you have any words of wisdom for new moms?
AT: Just be patient and things will always fall into place.