Avanade Voices: My daughter's diagnosis moved me from autism awareness to autism acceptance
- Posted on April 19, 2021
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
“Avanade Voices” is our series in which we sit down with people from Avanade’s various Employee Networks. The series serves as a platform to amplify different perspectives about meaningful societal and cultural issues, from racism to education to mental health. As a global company, there are so many different backgrounds at Avanade, and we have an opportunity to learn from each other by bringing our different viewpoints and passions to the table in dialogue.
This entry in Avanade Voices is authored by Matasha Lindsay, Group Manager in the Security Talent Community.
The thing that weighs most on my heart is the wellbeing of my daughter Mia’H. She’s 13 years old, and in many ways, she’s like your typical teenager. She tries to get away with certain things, she is a TikTok and YouTube fanatic and she’s starting to like boys. The other day she told me I’m too overprotective and I told her that’s my job. But see, Mia’H has a “differability” called autism, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t worry about how to protect her from the very thing I try my best to prepare her for – life. Kids can be cruel and her ability to be aware and respond to certain situations can sometimes hurt her feelings and even impact her safety. As her mother, I’m to protect her by all means necessary, right? And I take my job very seriously!
Mia’H has what’s called Fragile X syndrome, meaning she has a genetic disorder where one of her chromosomes repeats. She was first diagnosed when she was 4. Her preschool teacher pointed out that Mia’H had one of the typical signs where she flaps her hands – medically it’s called “stimming” or “self-stimulation.” She also didn’t interact much with other children and was often in her own world. I had never heard of autism, and I brushed off the preschool teacher’s assessment. In fact, my denial took such a strong hold that I pulled her out of that facility because I was convinced the teacher was trying to place a label my daughter.
But once my mom started noticing things, a doctor confirmed what others already knew. I fell into a deep depression. I felt like God was punishing me. I struggled mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt like I had done everything right by going to college and getting not just one degree but four, getting married, and then having children. Suddenly I was facing a challenge I had no idea how to manage.
I started doing my research on autism awareness and getting involved in local charities. I started as an active board member of the Autism Speaks Houston, and now I assist and participate in the planning of the local Autism Walk fundraiser campaign. I also have been organizing Autism Awareness events at Avanade for the past two years.
What does this involvement do for me and my daughter? I know that my daughter watches me. She watches how I interact with her and her friend and compares my actions with her sister and her friends. Before, I thought she was too young to feel the pain I associated with her diagnosis, but now it’s clear to me that she could pick up on that. As she sees me get more involved in autism awareness, I think it signals awareness, acceptance, and action to her. For me, getting involved has helped me find support and to be a supporter for other mothers. I’m partnered with parents who are going through the same thing, and I’ve found the ability to share my story without judgment and fear. It’s a feeling that I haven’t been able to put into words, just yet.
What’s the value in autism awareness? I think about the fact that before my daughter’s diagnosis, I had no idea what it was. And then once I did, it was very hard to get support. Statistically, one in every 54 children are diagnosed with ASD. With the numbers that high, it makes resources few and far between whether it’s lack of funding or programming or experienced professionals. With our initial attempt to get service or any kind of support through the state of Texas, there was a two and a half year wait. What was I supposed to do in the meantime?
The way I tackle issues like this is through autism awareness. I don’t promote autism awareness and acceptance just in April. It’s an everyday thing for our family. I make it known that yes, my daughter is autistic. Being autistic is nothing to be ashamed of, and if I expect for her to be comfortable when she goes out, then I must be comfortable as well. You’d be surprised how many parents I come across that I don’t know have autistic children, until I share with them my story. I’ve found that the more I share it, then the weight of it all isn’t as heavy as if I try to deal with it by myself. Plus, we have been tremendously blessed and been a blessing to others.
My ask for anyone reading is to for people to move beyond awareness to acceptance. If we put into place this change, then the movement will continue pressing forward and breaking down barriers that plague individuals with “differability”. Children, and adults with autism, they’re the same as you and me. They’re special in their own way, they do things in their own way, they all look different and sound different. But that’s true of the average person. We’re all unique in our own right. People with autism deserves to be treated just as you would want people to treat you.