One Family’s Autism Journey {Autism Awareness}

My autism story began almost immediately after giving birth to my third child.  Labor was hard, I was so tired, and my son was born 4 weeks early.  I remember the devastation going into the NICU and trying to nurse my son.  There wasn’t that initial bond I had felt with my other two.  It was heartbreaking.  I couldn’t understand it, though it didn’t stop me from trying.  As the months passed, my mom, my sister in law, and I all started noticing differences with Jacob.  He wouldn’t gaze at me lovingly like my other two children.  He wasn’t sitting up, he wouldn’t play with his image in the mirror, he didn’t babble, and he constantly threw his head back and forth.  We were all very scared.  I remember praying every day that Jacob wouldn’t have autism.  I didn’t know what that would mean for his life, for our family, or for me.  I didn’t know what limitations autism would have on him, all I knew was what I had seen in movies and the media.

I had my degree in psychology and had already learned many of the early warning signs, so in the back of my mind I had already suspected autism.  I was watching him, and his every move, hoping and praying that maybe just maybe he would outgrow these symptoms.  Only later did I find out that many parents wait and watch hoping the same thing.

By 14 months, I was sure.  I knew my son had autism.  If I had learned anything in school, it was that the “wait and see” approach was not considered the best for my son because getting help early while a child’s brain is still developing and malleable can make the biggest difference.  So I took him in to the pediatrician and shared all of my fears and concerns.  Luckily, his pediatrician really listened to me and then observed Jacob, making several distinct observations.  One was that he didn’t even look her way when she came in the room.  It was like he didn’t even notice or care that a stranger was there.  She sent us to the neurologist where it was confirmed at age 15 months that Jacob had autism and a speech and language disorder.

My mind was racing.  I was terrified.  I knew before then that Jacob had autism, but actually hearing it was harder than I ever could have imagined.  Life at that time was a whirlwind.  All of the hopes and dreams that I had for my child now seemed so uncertain.  What do I do now?  Who do I turn to for help?  It was by far the scariest time of my life.  So I reached out to organizations like Autism Speaks to find information and see what I needed to do.  At this point, my son was completely non-verbal and did not engage with anyone.  He would flap his hands frequently and throw his head back and forth.  I knew we needed to get some help, and I needed to learn how to be an autism mommy.

After reading loads of research, I decided that Applied Behavior Analysis was best for my son.  There began our “no insurance coverage” journey.  It’s not uncommon, if you search blogs from autism parents, the main thing that you will find is that families are fighting for insurance companies to cover treatment for their children.  As with nearly all the autism families I have known, we all know what our children need and will stop at nothing to help them.  We have to become our children’s advocates, educators, nurses, dieticians… and fight for them.

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Luckily, a friend recommended Houston ABA, Inc. There, as with many other ABA companies in Houston, in home part time therapy is offered.  The Behavior Analyst taught me many ways to teach and engage Jacob.  I had to learn a new kind of parenting.  For instance, when we play I verbalize almost anything Jacob could be thinking.  Watching me, I’m sure, is pretty comical.  The point is to give him many examples of speech and things that he could be saying instead of his usual humming and moaning.  She inspired me so much, in fact, that I began pursuing my Master’s Degree in ABA in order to help my son and hopefully other families in the future.  Through many difficult sessions, Jacob has learned how to say several words and phrases.  Now at almost 4 years old, I have finally heard my son call me “Mommy” or as he says it “Nonny” and even had him repeat “I love you” several times.  There is no possible way to describe how I felt the day that I heard those words.  There are no sweeter words in the world then when you hear your child say that for the first time, especially when you are uncertain that they will ever speak.  He has learned how to ask for milk and food and even to go play.

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Jacob is finally able to engage with us.  Although he doesn’t like to be around many people, he hugs and kisses and gazes at my husband and I all the time now.  He has learned to play with my son and daughter and even his Grandma.  He is so funny and quirky, and we simply can’t imagine our lives without him.  He has brought our family together in ways that are hard to explain.  My ten year old daughter Jordan writes poetry about autism awareness and raises hundreds of dollars for research every year.  My middle son Tyler loves to point out to people that we have to be careful with Jacob and shows incredible love and acceptance of his differences.  Our family is so much closer because of Jacob.  We even have a new family tradition now.  We wake up in the morning and all sing the “I love you so much” song around his high chair to make him laugh and learn what that phrase means.  My kids love to remind me to sing it when I sometimes forget.

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He has opened our eyes to the world of special needs and seeing how incredible all people are and what amazing joy people with special needs can bring into our lives.  Although being a parent to a child with autism is still challenging and difficult at times, I am so very thankful to be Jacob’s mommy.  He really has changed me.  He has opened my eyes and my heart to a whole different world.  He has shown me that no matter what, there is always hope.  He has taught me to never give up, never stop teaching him and learning, and to always be thankful for how unique and special he is.

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In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, we are spreading the word about ASD and how it affects the families in our very own community.  Jacob’s story is just one of many that we will be sharing, and we hope you will join us as real local moms open up and tell their stories all throughout the day.  To read more, please click here.

[hr] Allison H - HeadshotAbout Allison H.

Allison is a wife and mom of 3 children, Jordan, Tyler, and Jacob.  She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Houston and is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Special Education.  She is passionate about encouraging other autism parents and spreading autism awareness.    She hopes to eventually work with children with autism in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. You can follow her blog at Jacob’s Journey :: Venturing Through Autism.


  1. This is a great and inspiring story! I know that Houston ABA is great, and I refer moms to them all the time. Early Intervention is SO important!


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