Hello again! Some of you doubted I would return for Season 5. Many of you requested I come back and use my platform as a way to raise Autism Awareness. After much consideration, my family and I made the decision to come back and continue to open up and share our lives with you. Please understand that "Autism" is NOT my "storyline." "Autism" is our "reality." We live with it everyday. There is no way around it. A few ignorant people may call it "exploiting" my son, while I call it "raising autism awareness." It has become our mission to recover our son while helping as many other families as we can. I am proud of what we've accomplished so far.
During the filming of Season 4, our son was regressing in his milestones. I didn't bring attention to it while filming, because we didn't have a diagnosis or even a treatment plan in place yet. I didn't want people speculating on what my son's issues were, so we decided to keep it quiet until we had an actual diagnosis. It was a very difficult and devastating year for our family. I think you all have witnessed how I kept breaking down. I cried a lot that season. I still cry when I get overwhelmed at times, but it makes me stronger and ready to take on the next challenge.
Soon after filming Season 4, my son was diagnosed with Autism as we had suspected. As much as we prepared ourselves for that diagnosis, nothing could have prepared us for when we heard those words and we saw it in black and white on a piece of paper. It was heartbreaking.We reached out to People magazine to control how the news of his diagnosis would be released to the public. It was never anything we were ashamed of or ever wanted to hide. I would never want my son to be ashamed of his diagnosis either. I feel that people should be educated on what Autism is, to be able to understand it and empathize with others affected by it. Autism doesn't just affect the child, it affects the whole family and those close to them. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects social and communication skills. They may also exhibit some various kinds of repetitive behaviors. They are also very loving and intelligent individuals. 1 in 50 children are diagnosed with Autism every year. Something needs to be done about this.
When I came out with our son’s diagnosis, thousands of people reached out to me to share their own Autism journey, their resources, tools to help our son and helped me to network within the Autism community. It gave me the hope, strength, and encouragement I needed to persevere in my quest to recover our child. In return, I want to do the same for others.
Since the diagnosis, I have spent the first year researching, collecting, and sifting through as many resources and as much information I could find and then putting a plan of action in place. The notebooks you saw on the table in the scene where I spoke to Caroline about speaking with Joe Gorga were all part of my research. Early Intervention is the key to recovery, so I'm trying to do the best I can to get my son on the right path for recovery.I have also been using social media, blogging, writing articles for magazines, and speaking at various events and conferences to share my resources and journey with others, just to spread awareness. Just so the haters are corrected, I haven't collected a dime from any of it.
I wish I had been given a highlighted map of the exact path I need to take to recover my son, but there is no such path. It's all trial and error, so we continue to learn as we go. The best thing you can do for your child is to get them an Individualized Evaluation Plan so you can see what areas your child needs the most help in. Seek help in those areas. Pay attention to your child to see which therapies and treatments they best respond to. Use your parent intuition!
I don't want to get to far ahead of myself when writing this blog. I will discuss our journey as you see it unfold on screen.
In this episode you will see the beginner stages of teaching Nicholas the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). It uses picture cards of desired items to help him communicate his needs. It forces him to interact with me, because he has to make a sentence with the "I want" card along with the picture card of his desired item, bring it to me, point to it and if he can, use his voice to say the words. I was just learning how to use the system here as well. Nicholas has come a long way since then.If you wondered why there was already a lollipop in his mouth while requesting his iPad, it's because he had requested the lollipop prior to wanting the iPad. When Nicholas requests, he receives. He loves his iPad and there are so many great Autism apps out there and they are great learning tools.
It was very hard not to give in to his tantrums when I was not sure if he could physically do what I was expecting him to do. I chose to defy expectations! I just had to push him and believe he could do it! I knew that if I could push him to do that, he would be capable of so much more. He continues to amaze me every day. As a parent, it is my job to bring out the best child that my child can be and to love him for whoever he is. If I have to push him a little harder now while giving him the tools that could help make his future a little easier for him, you can bet I will do just that! I believe in him and my efforts are paying off. Nicholas is progressing!
My family has been a huge support system and well as my close friends and friends through social media. There are many support groups out there for families with children on the spectrum. Just do some googling and you will find them.
Devastating disasters like Hurricane Sandy and an Autism diagnosis can really shake you up and make you reevaluate your priorities in life. It makes you realize just how petty and insignificant some of the silly things we worry and fight about really are. At this point in time, I had enough of the fighting and I just needed peace in my life so I could keep my focus on more important things, like my own family, recovering my son, and restoring the Jersey Shore! So many people lost so many things dear to them during Hurricane Sandy. It was heartbreaking. People lost their loved ones, their homes, their personal belongings, and some of their history. The Jersey Shore would never be the same, but it was possible to rebuild and make it different. New Jersey will be stronger because of it. It was a time of sadness and devastation, but it was also an awakening of sorts. It was a time of people coming together to help and support each other. There was still hope for a brighter future because despite the devastation, New Jersey could rebuild.
Follow our journey this season and see how Jersey came back together despite of the devastation that it left in its wake. This season is about the calm AFTER the storm, and the journey we took to get there.
Exiting News: I will be launching a new beauty website, www.AltruisticBeauty.com, very soon. I want to share with you what I have learned through my experiences and knowledge I've gained within the beauty industry along with the research I've been collecting during my 20 plus years of being a cosmetologist. I will be doing this along with my expert panel team of top Beauty and Health Professionals including Beauty Editors, Celebrities, Cosmetologists, Beauty Publicists, Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Celebrity Hair/Makeup artists, Celebrity Manicurists, Health/Fitness and Beauty Gurus, Fashion Experts, right down to your average girl next door.
Join us by signing up on www.altruisticbeauty.com to get an exclusive invitation to our virtual grand opening. We will share beauty education, cutting edge tips, tricks, trends, product reviews, how-to videos, invitations to live stream chats with our team of some of the best health ad beauty professionals in the industry. We will have contests, polls, quizzes, and more. The topics will be about hair, skin, nails, body, health, fitness, relationships, and more! I hope you'll enjoy it and learn from it.
Thanks for always being so supportive and awesome! Love you all! XOXO!
See you next week!