About Monique Cain
Author of The Everyday Autism Series
Hi, my name’s Monique and I am the mother of two very special children: Madi and Thomas. Every parent knows that their children are special … but ours really are! They are both beautiful, and they are both autistic.
Everything seemed fine until Madi was nearly two years old: she’d learned how to walk, said a few words and was playing with us. Almost overnight, she withdrew. She became fussy about her food, she hated getting dressed, she wouldn’t go to bed, and our sunny, delightful, picture-perfect daughter became a major challenge in many ways. Putting a ‘label’ on her problem may have given us some extra support, but it didn’t really help us to cope with the challenges of daily life or the judgement we felt from others when she misbehaved in public, and, like any parents, we wondered what would happen when she went to school.
When Thomas arrived we were hopeful that he would escape this ‘difficult gift’ but we were also much quicker to notice when he displayed some of the early signs of autism, so we sought help earlier.
We are fortunate to have had a very supportive kinder and school for them to attend. Although each day presents its challenges for Madi and Thomas, as well as for their teachers, classmates, and parents we are all recognising that the learnings go both ways.
Monique also contributes to Source Kids’s blog content regularly sharing her experiences and insights she has learnt from Madi and Thomas.
Raising Awareness and Speaking Gigs
Our twenty-first century world is not made for autistic children (or adults) and, despite the increasing rate of diagnosis, many people have no idea what autism actually looks like or the impact it has on the whole family.
I call it the ‘difficult gift’ because when we look beyond the obvious challenges, many people living with autism also have a gift of wonder, focus, and emotional sensitivity that could transform our perspective (if we let it). Many autistic children look completely normal… until something happens that upsets them and they simply lose control. For those around them this is an everyday reality and it can be upsetting.
Eating. Playing. Getting dressed. Going shopping. Special occasions at school. Interruptions to imaginary play. Family events. There is always the sense of: “What is going to happen next?” which adds extra tension to the day when you are with an autistic child.
Autism Brings Joy and Grief to Parents
I love Madi and Thomas dearly and I wouldn’t swap them for anyone or anything else in the world. They’re ours, and they bring us immense joy as well as untold sorrow. I never thought parenting would be like this – it’s not something that is discussed at pre-natal classes, or even new mothers’ groups – but parenting one, and then two, autistic children has increased my joy in the little things: – the times when Madi comes and stands close to me; or smiles her radiant, gorgeous smile that lights up her whole being; or reaches for my hand; or learns a new skill like bike riding; the times when Thomas’ vivid imagination reaches out and I am drawn into his wonderful world of fantasy; or when he sits quietly on his grandma’s knee and accepts her quick hug.
All those milestones which many children reach so effortlessly take so much more effort and courage for an autistic child, that they become extremely significant for their parents.