It sounds strange, and gross, but it’s the truth. And that’s what Benjamin wants to share with others in a book — the true good and bad stories of raising a child with autism.
“You know, you sit there and you cry because every day, every hour is a challenge,” Benjamin said.
A challenge, but not a unique one. According to the Centers for Disease Control one in 59 people are on the autism spectrum.
Benjamin has two sons on the autism spectrum, Kenny and Brad, who live at home with she and her husband in Bowie. The family hasn’t been shy about sharing their story — in 2014, Brad and Kenny were featured on the MTV series True Life.
Benjamin said she and other parents who have raised children on the spectrum have heart-warming, exhausting stories. She wants to collect those stories in a book to help parents who just received an autism diagnosis or who are feeling overwhelmed.
“They think their kid is the only one who did, x, y, z or who ran away, I want them to know they’re in a community of parents and mothers who have already been there and that they’re in good company,” she said. “I also want to give them a heads up of what’s to come.”
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She said for her sons, she had to make a rule for everything, such as when to wear clothing. The book won’t just illuminate the funny and frustrating, but also show what children with autism can achieve.
One mother has shared a story with her about her 4-year-old going to get help when she twisted her ankle and fell badly while pregnant. Benjamin said the boy just wanted to play peek-a-boo at first, and the mom didn’t have a prayer that he would go get help. She kept encouraging him to go get her fiance, and finally he did. When the boy arrived at the door he said “mommy” and pointed, the fiance saw him alone, knew something was wrong and ran to help.
“She was so proud of him. Here he was nonverbal, but he was still able to convey that message,” she said. “These are the things, you expect them not to be able to do this. But they can do.”
Two local moms, Rose Forrest, and Beth Jansen, both of whom have sons that are rising sixth graders, have started an informal social “hangout” group, Broadneck Autism Allies, for local kids, ages 8-14, with or without a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
She is soliciting anonymous submissions from other parents with autistic children for the book, and hopes to use proceeds to fund her nonprofit Autism FYI, which works to educate law enforcement on how to identify and interact with people on the spectrum or who have brain disorders.
In addition to training, the nonprofit offers bracelets and other materials that identify someone who is autistic or has a brain disorder, so police can respond appropriately. They also sell weighed neck pillows that have a calming effect. Brad and Kenny both work for Autism FYI making those items, and Benjamin said she would like to hire more people on the spectrum to work.