Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM Interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to give readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Rose Morris is the founder and president of Abram’s Nation and a mother who was driven by the relentless pursuit to keep her son, Abram, who is on the autism spectrum, safe at night. When she could not find a suitable solution, Rose designed and developed The Safety Sleeper™, the first and only enclosed bed system of its kind.
Recognizing many others deserved the same freedom to sleep without fear for the safety of their loved ones, Rose began her mission to make a meaningful impact for others through Abram’s Nation. For more information about Rose and Abram’s Nation please go to https://www.abramsnation.com.
A is for Awareness – When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
I first became aware that something was different when Abram was around 12 months old. You are told not to compare your child to others, but as a mother, you trust your instincts. Abram was still crawling at 12 months and had not attempted walking. He started babbling, but it was not in the expected way of trying to mimic our speech.
At the one-year check-up with our pediatrician, I voiced my concerns about Abram’s development. Our doctor did not think anything was really wrong, but she referred us to a speech therapist. From there we learned that my instinct had been correct.
U is for Unique – How has this experience been Unique for you and your child?
Unique is the very definition of autism. The saying is that if you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism. Just as everyone has a unique personality, the autism diagnosis is part of Abram’s personality. He has a desire to be around people, but not necessarily engaged.
When he goes to work with me, Abram knows the exact schedule and what time everyone leaves for the day. He stands outside and waves to everyone as they head home. He would never engage with those same people one-on-one, but he wants to feel like he is part of the community. It’s an endearing personality trait. Abram is not anti-social, he’s just unique in the way he socializes.
T is for Tools – What tools are there now that weren’t there in the beginning that could help other parents?
There is more awareness and understanding of autism than there was when we first received our diagnosis. There are more voices speaking up and people have the courage to speak openly and candidly about their experiences with autism.
We are at a place now where we can have a conversation about the difference between a temper tantrum and a meltdown and people are receptive to that conversation. People are less likely to make judgments about a child’s behavior now than they used to be, though there is always more work to be done to educate and promote understanding.
I is for Inspire – As a parent, when you look at your child or children, what inspires you?
Abram is now 15 and I am inspired by the progress he has made. At age two, I was filled with worry and uncertainty about Abram’s future. While that worry about the unknown will always exist, I cannot dwell on that.
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I don’t know whether he will ever drive or live on his own, but I focus on everything he has accomplished and how he has grown beyond what I initially thought possible. He is truly a joy and could live with me forever!
S is for Support – Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with, and what types of support do you still need?
I struggle with the thought of what will happen to Abram when I get old or when we lose people who are close to him. Abram has a very close relationship with my father, and I do not know how I will be able to help Abram process his emotions when his grandfather dies. The thought guts me. Abram thinks linearly and everything is black and white to him, so knowing that I will someday have to explain death and help him through the loss truly makes my heart ache.
M is for Manage – What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day-to-day efforts?
The most important thing I learned was how to manage the meltdown. I learned that a meltdown could be two hours or 20 minutes, and that my reaction was a major factor. During a meltdown, Abram would get physical, like a monster expelling evil energy from inside himself.
I learned that I had to be the complete opposite of that because otherwise the monster would feed off of me. I had to channel inner peace, stay cool, and speak matter-of-factly without any emotion. This exact approach may not work for every child, but the key is to learn that you can impact the situation more than you may realize.
Most importantly, I want to speak from experience, it gets better. Very early on, one of Abram’s therapists told me that it would get better. I believed her only because I had no other choice. Autism is a journey and you will face different challenges, but you have to hold onto that hope—that it gets better.
This article was featured in Issue 126 – Romantic Relationships and Autism