Hey ladies, happy PHAT Girl Friday!
Today, I am sharing with you another installment of the Blue Chronicles. The Blues Chronicles are a way for me to share with you the truths of some amazing women. These women are the mothers of some equally amazing children who happen to have autism. The goal of the Blue Chronicles is simply to provide hope for mothers who may be going through similar situations, to educate mothers who may be just starting their journey and to inspire mothers to live beyond their child’s diagnosis.
“I’m sitting here in Starbucks crying because I can’t believe how far we have come. THANK YOU JESUS.”
These are word from Madeline Jones, the mother of the beautiful, talented, blogger posing Madison Jones who just happens to be autistic. When introduced in that manner, some of you may not make the connection but Madeline is a woman who is loved and respected all over the world. Madeline is a former model and body positive activist but she is most known as the Editor In Chief of Plus Model Magazine. To say that she is a major influencer in the plus size community is an understatement.
While the world connects with Maddy as this major force in the plus size community, I have been blessed to know her on a more intimate level. Yes, I met her under the terms of her place in the plus size community but I was able to connect with her on a greater level as a mother. I tell people all the time that I like to build relationships with people, I guess that is just the country girl in me. Over the years that Maddy and I have been friends, we have had numerous exchanges about Madison and her progress, honestly I think we have talked more about Madison than the industry. Like any mothers account of her children, Maddy has shared with me both the ups and downs that Madison has encountered. However, I can honestly say that I have witnessed Maddy love Madison through every moment of this journey and she did it all while empowering a community of women to love themselves.
Below I want to share a brief question and answer interview between me and Maddy. In sharing Maddy’s truth, I pray that you are able to appreciate her on an even greater level and that someone somewhere finds hope.
“I knew something was wrong when every day noises would bother her and cause her to cry. Running water, clapping after singing Happy Birthday, or music being turned off. I thought it was odd but did not know what it was. She was also not speaking at all. She would point and grunt to communicate. She was already a year and a half and could not form any words. One day I was shopping with her and put her in the cart, she flapped her hands at me and immediately I knew. I looked up signs of Autism on my phone and showed them to my husband and he just looked at me in disbelief.”
“From the moment we called early intervention, it took a month of seeing several doctors and therapist. They did a very thorough cycle of testing. She met all her milestones except the verbal ones so they wanted to be sure it was not only a speech issue.”
“Early on it was VERY difficult for Luke and I. We were prisoners in our home because something as simple as going to the store, going to the park or visiting with family could turn into a meltdown for her. Madison did not like NOT knowing what she was going to be doing and even when we would tell her she would not understand. For example: One day my sister needed baby milk for her infant. I took Madison with me and went to the store. I parked in the lot and I told her before I left we are going to the store. On the car ride I told her we are going to the store. When I parked the car and tried to get her out of the car she would not come out and cried and cried. I had to go back with her kicking and screaming and NO MILK for my sister. I’ll never forget that day because she was upset and I remember crying not knowing if we would ever be able to navigate life with her in an easier manner.”
A Word From The Wise…
“PRAY! Pray to whatever higher power you believe in. Learn to lean on your support group (friends, family, therapist) and be prepared for some tough days ahead which will be followed with very rewarding ones. Early intervention is key, make sure you know ALL that is available for your child (schooling, therapy, etc). Also, make sure that you go with your gut. This is your child if the school is not working for your child, find another school. Get as much support therapy as possible and accept that your child will need YOU most of all. Nothing is more comforting to them than their parent(s).”
“For me befriending Christina Mendez changed everything for us. She has an autistic child older than Madison and she was a huge source of information and support for us. We have cried and celebrated together because we understand what we go through when most people don’t. In addition, the internet is your best friend… join support groups, forums and email list that will update you on anything in your area.”
“The first time we were able to sit down at a diner for lunch was a big deal for us. This is something that most children should be able to do at five years old. Being in a crowded place, lots of sounds, and having to wait could all be triggers. We went prepared with an ipad, and sat near the door just in case we had to run out. Aside from a few singing outburst while we were waiting the experience was what we were wishing. Once she began to understand that we would always bring her back she stopped having meltdowns when we would leave a place. Since then we have been kayaking, sailing, themed parks, traveled by plane to Florida and Puerto Rico and have even been to church! Does not mean that it’s always a walk in the park but she has faced her challenges and will not tell us when she is not comfortable with something. This is a huge triumph for Madison! “
“I’m most passionate about people knowing more about Autism. At this point most people have heard about it, but are you tolerant or are you rolling your eyes and trying to teach a parent on how to manage their child. Most people think that if you yell or speak strongly to them they will listen. Autism is not bad behavior, our children do not process this world the way everyone else does. So screaming at them is not the answer, keeping them on a schedule, sometimes using a special brush on their arms and back soothes them, using visual cues are all tactics we use. I also need the Department of Education to get on board! My biggest challenge has been dealing with a school system that just wants to lump everyone in one school and forget about them. We need for these children to have a chance to be the best they can be so they can be productive people in society one day. The DOC should not be bullying parents, they should be HELPING them to navigate the best course of action for their children.”
“Listening to her little voice in the morning begins my day with joy in my heart. At one time she could not say MOMMY and now she says it 20 times a day. Listening to her sing, watching her dance and being able to participate in school activities is the joy of my life. When she asks to go to school on her days off – I know I have done my job because she enjoys where she is and is learning. Most of all being able to hold her and waking up next to her and watching her sleep makes me most happy. I can remember when we could not hug her or barely touch her too much. Now she hugs us and engages in play with us, does chores and is learning to be more independent.”
“Being Madison’s mom has changed my life completely. I have always been a hard worker, passionate about what I believe in and a little on the tough side. Being her mom has made me an advocate for her and other children/adults with special needs. I’m more aware and tolerant of people in general and I see the world differently. I try and do everything from a point of kindness, I want her to see that in me so that it will be part of her learned behavior to be kind and respectful of people. I’m most appreciative of the people in my life that have supported Luke and I. My family has supported me in ways that I can’t describe without getting teary eyed. Everything from whispering Happy Birthday during parties, learning to speak to Madison with visual cues in order to communicate, etc. Even my nieces who are only ten have been instrumental in how Madison found comfort with the family. Without being taught they found ways to communicate and engage her. They have never turned their back on her, and have been like her sisters through this very challenging journey.”
“God is my rock, my truth and my everything. If did not have God in my heart depression could have taken me and turned this journey into a sad story. As a parent I felt so responsible, helpless and carried such fear that I battled depression while trying to figure out how to take care of her. I also did not allow myself to leave all of who I was, I thought about leaving PMM and just focusing on her but the truth is that the plus size community has been so supportive of my journey. I’ve met women, like you who are always there with a supportive word, information and a prayer. We still face many challenges ahead but the love for my daughter keeps me going, she is my gift from God. “
Maddy’s truth is proof that, women can do all things. Yes, she is faced with adversity but she never allows that to discourage her or hinder her from answering the call as a wife, mother and influencer for woman all over the world. For that I salute her and I am so honored to call her friend and like Maddy. I thank God for all that he has done for her family.