Meet William Seth Kennedy, born February 23, 2007 weighing in at 13 pounds 11 ounces. Thats where my babies story began, he was a fighter from birth and is still knocking barriers down left and right.
I got up from my emergency c section anticipating the moment to hold my new baby, Unfortunately little did I know, that wouldn't be the case. While I was doped up on meds, my baby was struggling to breath. He like many babies that are born through c section had some troubles from birth. He had an enlarged heart, and high blood pressure as well. I of course was so scared and terrified for my sons life. I was told to rest and that he would be fine, but I was determined to see him no matter what. So I told my husband at the time to get a wheel chair and I stood up and walked just to see him. apparently three hours after major surgery was too soon to stand but I had to be near my child. I was wheeled into ICU and saw my little warrior. Life for me would never be the same. I held his hand that day and have been holding it ever since. I stayed by that babies side for two weeks as he built his strength. Within a month his heart was a normal size, and his blood pressure regulated. I was so relieved. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a long road for us.
William started developing like a normal child until about a year old. He failed to give me eye contact and communicate like most children his age. Being a new mother I did what many would do, I COMPARED. Though many would say "he is fine don't worry", I felt in my heart that William may have some concerns that I should discuss with his doctor. So I did, the doctors continued to assure me that he is fine and give it time. Besides there was nothing that the health providers could do until 3 years old. So I waited, two more years and hoped for change, well it never came. At this point William was transitioning homes and his father and I were in the process of a divorce. The transition was hard for us both, but for a kid like William it was much harder. He had no idea of why he had to leave him home and I had no real way of explaining to his understanding.
When William was three years old I quit my job as an assistant educator at a school that specialized in autistic support. I found that the job was very overwhelming because I was often worn out by the needs of the children I assisted during the day and then to come home and focus on my own child was bit much. It was for the best, and looking back I know I did the right thing. The next month I took William to get evaluated and signed myself up for cosmetology school. It was literally the hardest time of our lives. I as a mother barely had enough money to take care of my baby, and we were living from house to house. I was depressed and William was kicked out of 3 daycare centers while waiting to get help for him. IT TOOK 3 MONTHS to get assistance for him. I recall a time when the daycare provider called me while I was in school to say that William needed to be picked up immediately! At this point I was so drained with so much, I had no idea what to do anymore. They told me that William had bit a bunny at day care that day, and the children where frightened and he had no idea what he did wrong. I picked up my baby signed another set of discharge papers and left. I walked with my baby and cried holding his hand. I promised him we would figure this out together. He looked at me with confusion as I asked him why did he bite the bunny. He couldn't explain it to me and I just hugged him. I couldn't imagine how it felt for him to not be able to communicate with anyone about his actions. Even if its only to defend himself, he had a right to do that.
A month went by and I finally was able to get William evaluated. I was blown away by the result, AUTISM. I thought William had ADHD or ADD, I knew he did learn differently, but didn't associate him with autism even tho I knew so much about it. That day I realized that I knew so much, that I knew absolutely nothing! From that moment on we fought together ! We fought for answers, we fought for help, and I advocated for my baby. I didn't ignore it and I didn't want anyone around him to ignore it either. This was our new reality and we had to do what we needed to make William have the best quality of life without being medicated. By the age of 5 William was vocal and I was able to get us a place from a shelter program. For the first time in two years we were settled and were finding balance. I had a behavioral specialist come out twice a week to assist me with behavioral concerns and I went to every IEP meeting (individualized education plan) to assure consistency as he needed this across the board to be successful. William successes came from a team of committed professionals along with his will to want to be the best that he could be. I always wondered if I did the right thing with starting my life over and switching careers. With every year that William learns and gains confidence I realize I did what was best for us both. With building clientele as a cosmetologist I had time to give him the attention he deserved when he needed it the most. William learned a lot within that time frame and his support team and I wear able to provide him what he needed.
William is currently 10 years old, he's in the 4th grade with autistic support AND he makes me so proud. Every mile stone he hits proves that with support and his will to be the best he can be will always make him a success. I openly speak about William's story because it can and has motivated mothers to get help with their children as early as possible. Most parents hate the idea of a child being labeled, I get it. I myself don't like the labeling aspect of it either, however it is the label that allowed us to receive the services needed to get him the help he deserved. It can be a double edged sword, in many ways it can consume your life and all the aspects of it. It isn't easy and it doesn't go away. Like many things that we tend to suffer through in this life, mental illnesses are not easy. They can be so hard to deal with, and as a child I can only imagine what my William goes through. The anxieties and pressures; I don't experience it like he does but I sure am on the battle field with him so I empathize. As a parent I only want what is best for him, but I ALSO DO RECOGNIZE his need to be who he is. Willam may always be socially awkward, and He may also have other concerns like OCD , AND ECHOLALIA. However these things won't enable him from being an awesome responsible adult one day! His humble heart and loving spirit will be a blessing to this world. I take accountability as his parent and all I can do is offer William the best care, education and structure that a parent can offer. My goal is to have William live an independent adult life, while maintaining a relationship with family, friends and doctors. I want him to accept himself as he is; Everyone has good and bad with or without a label. How he identifies with his diagnosis will be his choice. I just want to be apart of it and cheer him on every step of the way!!!!
Images by : Natasha K photos