Today’s AUTISM interview is with Alicia Hardigree, a mom of two adults with autism.
For every AUTISM interview, I ask six questions based on each letter in the word “autism” to gain insightful perspectives from parents like Alicia.
She resides in Greenville, South Carolina, with her husband of 25 years, Morris, and their two children, Rion and Ally. Rion is 21, takes college classes, and will soon have an Associate of Arts degree.
Ally, 19, has very limited language and attends a private school for people with autism run by the Project HOPE Foundation, an organization that provides many resources to spectrum families.
Alicia and Morris make time for themselves by hiring sitters once or twice a month so they can go out for a quiet dinner. The family feels fortunate to have a pool and hot tub to bond together in (it is also where Ally does a great deal of singing).
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A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
I was oblivious because I had two toddlers. Then my sisters came to me and said they thought Ally was either deaf or on the autism spectrum.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been unique for you and your children?
We have to bond in ways typical families do not, such as singing together.
T is for Tools
What tools exist now that were not there in the beginning that could help other parents?
There are so many more tools now than when we got our diagnosis 17 years ago. Number one is the funding for ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) via insurance. That has been life-saving.
I is for Inspire
When you look at your children, what inspires you?
I have to remember how far they have come. Early on, I basically had two nonverbal children. Now, my daughter can communicate with a combination of using her words and her iPad. And I refer to my son as Chatty Cathy now. I even send videos of his incessant talking to his former speech therapist about once a year with a thank you, followed by a question mark.
S is for Support
What things do you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
It will always be a struggle for support when we are out in public. Most people “get it” and recognize autism. But there will always be the less-informed who are not always so kind.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you share with parents so they can better manage their day to day efforts?
Make time for yourselves, even though that sounds impossible. Take advantage of respite if you can and go on a date with your partner once a month (when the quarantine is over).
Responses have been edited for clarity.
This article was featured in Issue 106 –Maintaining a Healthy Balance With ASD