Cindy is a mom of two boys; Nicholas (15) and Rylan (11). She and her husband, Neal, raise their family in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Rylan was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2013. Cindy and I discussed her experience with her son’s diagnosis and how things have changed over the years.
Kathy: Tell me a bit about your son’s diagnosis.
Cindy: Rylan was diagnosed just a couple of months before turning 4. He will be 12 this December, so we are 8 years in! Back then, wow. We were a mix of all the emotions. We were sad, confused, and scared. On the other side of it, we were relieved. Relieved to finally get the news that we already knew deep inside. Relieved that we would now be able to access the resources and therapies that were so desperately needed. Thinking back on it, I was in a fog for a while. It was a scary time and I felt very alone in this, other than the constant support from my husband.
We’ve been through so much
K: Now that some time has passed, do you feel differently about the diagnosis now?
C: Eight years is a very long time, and we’ve been through so much. We’ve learned a whole lot about what’s important in life. Rylan is the light in my day! Every day.He has worked so hard through these years to get to where he is. I celebrate him and everything that he is. He’s taught me through the years, how to appreciate the little moments. How to be patient, and how to treat others. To be accepting and understanding of others, because we don’t know what’s going on inside. Autism has changed me as a person and a mother. And Rylan, although he has had some extremely challenging years, is coming into his own in the best way!
K: What are some of your fears or worries about your son?
C: Rylan being treated fairly out there in the world. He doesn’t always pick up or see when he’s being mistreated by peers. I also worry about him growing up and being able to work and take care of himself.
He is so uniquely him and I love that more than anything
K: What is the best surprise about having a child who was diagnosed with ASD?
C: All of the joy that comes with it. He is so uniquely him and I love that more than anything. One myth about autism is that there is a lack of empathy, and (autistic people) do not like or show affection. Rylan has the biggest heart. He cares so much about others and shows it all the time!
The other best surprise is all the help. We have been supported through the years by teachers, educational assistants, speech and occupational therapists. The list goes on, and these lovely humans are our heroes. I appreciate them and everything they’ve done for our family and it’s never been taken for granted.
We had some mind-blowing moments in those days
K: What’s your favorite design from The Inclusion Collection, and what does it mean to you?
C: I love the entire collection, it’s amazing! My favorite is the Universe Tee — that’s Rylan for sure! Along with this autism diagnosis, was a severe communication disorder. He was very delayed with his speech, so in his earlier years, he did have so much to say but couldn’t. When he finally started using words it was by repeating phrases from TV shows and songs. He was also so good at knowing the alphabet and spelling. He used to actually print words out to communicate with us. That’s when we knew, he had “a whole universe in his mind”. We had some mind-blowing moments in those days of realizing how much he actually knew once he was able to find that outlet to communicate with us!
K: What’s something you wish everyone knew about the disability community?
C: I wish everyone would take the time to get to know people living with disabilities. I would’ve loved to see Rylan get invited to birthday parties, etc. But honestly, even more so for them than Rylan. I don’t think people realize how much they’d get out of having a friendship with someone like my son, who has so much to offer the relationship. We have so much to learn from people like Rylan.