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Birthday Wishes

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Birthday Wishes

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to introduce you to a new member of the Rocket City Mom family – please welcome Jennifer Kelly and her column, “A New Normal: Special Needs Parenting in Huntsville”. 

I told my husband that I hoped I would be pregnant by the time I turned thirty. After more than six months of trying, I got my wish– two weeks before I turned thirty. Two weeks before a number of friends and family arrived at my house all asking me why I wasn’t drinking any alcohol at my own birthday party. I had to tell everyone right then even though I wasn’t far enough along really to be doing it.

By twelve months, he hadn’t said a word. He didn’t point. He did like straight lines, though; he would follow them with his eyes and his body.

I bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I slept a lot. I tried really hard not to throw up whenever nausea started knocking. I fretted over things that could happen to my baby. But the one thing I fretted over most was autism. It was the newest buzzword , the new primary concern. The fear of SIDS, though still there, had been replaced by this nebulous term that seem to invite whatever nightmare scenarios I could work up and, believe me, I have a vivid imagination. My husband reassured me that I was worrying over nothing, that our baby boy would be fine.

© Viki2win | Dreamstime.com
© Viki2win | Dreamstime.com

So, after fourteen hours of labor, my dark-haired little man came out and seemed to be a normal baby. He smiled at eight weeks. He grew. He commando-crawled. He even babbled. Then, about eight months, I bought him a little truck to play with. He would flip it over and spin the wheels for much longer than an eight-month-old baby should do anything, really.


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The Diagnosis

By twelve months, he hadn’t said a word. He didn’t point. He did like straight lines, though; he would follow them with his eyes and his body. Other than those little quirks, everything seemed pretty normal – at least for all we knew as first-time parents. I filled out the MCHAT at his eighteen-month visit. He flunked it. The pediatrician looked concerned.

I heard things like Early Intervention, speech therapy, developmental delays, autism. I sat in my car after that doctor visit and cried. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. My friends’ kids were saying words and doing things that typical children did. I felt like I had done something wrong.

© Ababaka | Dreamstime.com
© Ababaka | Dreamstime.com

Google Is Not Your Friend

I felt isolated. I had no one to ask questions of except Google. If you’re a parent with a child with any sort of potential issues like mine, Google is not your friend. Google will drive you, and, by extension, your spouse, mad with worst-case scenarios.

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young boy being examined by pediatrician

I had no one to talk to about until I met the Early Intervention representative that we worked with. Then my son’s speech therapist. Then his wonderful Pre-K teacher. Over time, I met more and more parents who faced questions like I had. I met parents whose children were special needs as well. Their challenges might not be like my son’s, but they knew what it was like to feel isolated and alone.


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These People Will Be

We bond randomly over small things and big. We give each other support, even if it’s a conversation in passing where one parent recommends something or someone to another. If I never see that person again, I like to think that perhaps that family has a little bit more of an idea what to do. For a moment, they don’t feel isolated. For a moment, it looks like this thing that might feel abnormal really isn’t. It’s just another kind of experience that some parents have. It’s not typical and it’s not atypical. It’s just life and that’s what I’ll be writing about: life. A life that happens to include a child with some sort of special need.

Every child has challenges, but not every child’s challenges are the same. In this new series on Rocket City Mom, I’ll be profiling families that deal with a variety of challenges and sharing local resources that they use to give their children the support they need. Stay tuned, and introduce yourself in the comments below.


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View Comments (9)
  • I appreciate your approach to this. Great post and I certainly look forward to more!

    • Thank you, Christa! I’m so excited to hear that you enjoyed it. I look forward to bringing you all more!

    • Thanks, Penni! I think it’s about time too. I’m happy to do what I can to represent this facet of parenting in the area. I’m looking forward to bringing you guys more!

  • I’m so grateful for this post! It’s very easy to feel isolated when no one seems to understand your child. My son is almost 4 and is on the Autism Spectrum. I look forward to reading more from you!

    • I know how you feel, April! I felt very isolated at first. As my oldest has grown, I have had the chance to get to know other parents with kids on the spectrum and other types of special needs. Know that you are not alone! As your son gets older, you’ll have more and more opportunities to meet families similar to your own,

  • Hi Jennifer!! Thank you for your column. I have a 21 month old boy with Down Syndrome. I am a sponge of other mom’s knowledge of children with special needs and what they’ve learned and are learning in the school system and early intervention etc… Thank you for being a voice for our community.

  • So happy to see this specifically relating to Huntsville! I have a 7 year old son with a random genetic mutation that has caused seizures and severe developmental delays. He can’t walk or talk, but he’s always happy! 🙂

  • I am so excited for this section of the Rocket City Mom website! I have really enjoyed reading your articles here and am looking forward to seeing more. I am a service coordinator with an Early Intervention program here in the area and we are always trying to get the word out about EI and other services. Thank you for being another voice for our little ones!

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