Why This Mom Cried Tears Of Relief When Her Son Was Diagnosed With Autism

Mom Friends: Wendy Shaw “You Are The Best Advocate For Your Child"

By PJ Feinstein

how to advocate for autistic child

It’s not uncommon for moms to become emotional upon learning their child has special needs. Wendy Shaw, for example, cried when a psychologist officially diagnosed her four-year-old son, Lucas, with autism. Instead of expressing sadness, though, Wendy was crying tears of relief. “I was thankful that I could finally get my boy the resources he needed that I could only get for him if I had a diagnosis in hand,” she says.

Wendy, a former nurse from Atlanta who now stays at home with her kids, remembers thinking there was something special about her son from a very early age, and her suspicion only grew stronger as he grew older. Lucas was non-verbal until he was three and struggled to show affection in an appropriate way, especially to his little sister, Hadley, who was born days after he turned two. “He would do what we called the ‘tackle hug,’ which was him basically tackling her to the ground trying to figure out how to hug her, or he would pinch her,” she says. “We went through a biting stage as well.” 

This past year, however, their relationship has started to change. “There was a time where I felt like I spent most of my days just trying to keep them separate from each other, and that was hard,” explains Wendy. Now, they pester each other, but in a way that’s typical for siblings, and Lucas, who doesn’t naturally have the desire to play with other kids, is interested in playing with Hadley. “There is a genuine love between them that I wasn’t sure I would ever see. She has been the best thing for him, and he is her absolute best friend.” 

Lucas and his sister may be growing closer, but his strongest bond has always been with Wendy. Even when he was a baby, he needed to see or touch his mother, and the few times he’s been away from her have not gone well. While she would never change the way Lucas feels about her, Wendy confesses that “it can be exhausting at every level to be needed in that capacity all day long.” 

autism siblings

Where is your family's happy place?

Our family’s happy place is all of us together at a playground. Those simple days are usually the best days for us. 

How do you find time to take care of yourself? 

I will be honest and say that self-care doesn’t happen a lot for me right now. Child care isn’t easy to come by for us, so I don’t get a lot of time just to myself. However, one thing I have been trying out is sensory deprivation. I deal with sensory overload sometimes and have dealt with it since suffering from postpartum depression with my daughter. It was recommended to me to try out flotation therapy to help with the sensory overload. It is a really incredible way to shut your mind off and have 90 minutes to yourself to go into a super relaxed state. 

Who are your three favorite moms to follow on Instagram?

Whitney over at @thespectrumcompass was one of the first moms I found after Lucas’s diagnosis. She is a wealth of knowledge in the special needs area and is a joy to follow. 

Danielle at @daniellenmager was another mom I found shortly after Lucas received his diagnosis. I appreciate how open and honest she is with her son’s journey and how she shares things that have worked for them. Those things are so helpful when you are just starting your own journey. 

My third favorite mom is Alyssa from @thrillofhome. She is not a special needs mom, but I met her shortly after starting my Instagram page and I just love her. She shares recipes every Tuesday and has been really helpful to me for learning more gluten/dairy-free recipes. She has been a wonderful support to me the last few months as our lives have transitioned, and I wish she lived closer so we could be friends in real life, not just Instagram life. 

What are your favorite apps? What are Lucas’s? 

My favorite apps right now are Wolf + Friends because I am always on the lookout for some other special needs mom friends; Instagram because I have actually found a really lovely, strong, supportive community of women I wouldn’t have otherwise found; and Netflix because Mama needs screen time too sometimes. 

Lucas really likes Speech Blubs, and it actually holds his attention for a while, which is amazing! I recently found Social Story Creator & Library for him to try and help with new situations. We don’t have a printer at home, so making social stories was a little difficult for us, but having an app on my phone makes it very convenient. YouTube is also a favorite of his because he likes to watch videos of people riding elevators… I had no idea there were elevator enthusiasts out there, but thank you for entertaining my son for a few minutes so I can fold laundry! 

What TV shows, books, and/or podcasts are you loving right now?

So I think I am probably the last person on earth who has yet to get into podcasts, but I haven’t. I’m hoping one day I will find the time to start checking some out! TV shows would be Grey’s Anatomy and The Handmaid’s Tale

The last book I read was The All Souls Trilogy because I wanted to read the books before I started watching A Discovery of Witches. I LOVE to read, but I have found it hard to make time for it in recent years. One of my goals this year is to start reading regularly again. 

What 5 words best describe you?

Quiet, strong, protective, advocate, loyal 

resources for kids with special needs

What advice would you give a new special needs mom?

Always follow your gut. You know your child better than any doctor or healthcare professional. If you feel something isn’t right or needs to be changed, always trust your feelings and talk to someone. You are the best advocate for your child. 

PJ Feinstein