I was introduced to NMAS shortly after my daughter Layla was diagnosed with autism. I felt alone and misunderstood or dismissed by others around me. Just hearing the word autism come out of the doctors mouth knocked the breath out of me. Like many parents who hear those words I went straight home and cried and looked online for answers. It was devastating. The results in my search only made me feel more lost with more questions than answers. Many organizations I came across showed autism as something to be feared. The words they used implied shame.I felt sick.
I met a couple of moms from NMAS for coffee after contacting them. We talked about our children like moms do, but it was the first time I felt at peace, knowing I WAS NOT ALONE! It was the first time someone understood what I was talking about. I remember one mom grabbing my hand and telling me her son did something my daughter did for the longest time. I no longer felt misunderstood or dismissed.
I loved the culture of NMAS. They treated my precious daughter with respect. They celebrated her with me and were not ashamed of her delays and challenges. I was told that we were neighbors on autism street. I felt so welcome and loved. More importantly, my daughter was accepted for who she was.
I started bringing my entire family to the events held by NMAS. It was amazing to be all together where our children could just be themselves and not have to worry about being judged for my daughters uniqueness. I learned that together, we could help each other, and celebrate our kids.
In April of this year I ran for the title of Mrs. New Mexico, United States; and won! I overcame so much fear taking the stage, but all it took was one look in the audience and seeing Layla and knew it was for her, the community and other mothers on this journey with me! By winning the title I took and shared my platform of “Autism Awareness and Acceptance” to the national stage in Las Vegas, Nevada, it was am AMAZING experience! One of the most important things to me about this experience was that I was able to spread awareness and acceptance to thousands of people throughout the United States, I was able to share my story!
It was that phone call to the New Mexico Autism Society, the meeting with the mothers, and attending events sponsored by NMAS that gave me the confidence, courage and understanding I so desperately sought after hearing those words, “your daughter is on the autism spectrum.” Now one year later, Layla being diagnosed with autism is not as discouraging as it once seemed!