This post is by Angela Nieves, a Staten Island walker and team captain. You can visit her fundraising page here.
I decided to do the Staten Island walk because I wanted to raise awareness for parents like me who are as clueless about Autism Spectrum Disorders as I was seven years ago. I'm walking for my Matty boy. He is now seven years old. He was my first child and I couldn't wait for him to come into the world. I was so happy and couldn't wait to be a mom. I had the usual fears that any mother has when they are pregnant- just hoping everything would be okay with the baby that was growing inside of me. But the last thing I thought about was my baby having ASD.
Up until 16 months, my baby looked fine and showed no signs. Then, I started to see that he was not laughing or making sounds as much. Additionally, he was not responding to his name being called, or imitating me when I would clap my hands. He didn’t play with toys the way babies do.
For a long time, I couldn't help but feel guilt. Was it something I did or ate that made him this way? After two months of denial, I couldn't wait any longer and I found out about early intervention. It was a process, but I knew I had to do it to find out answers. After all of the evaluations, I got a diagnosis: PDD-nos. I wondered what that was and learned that it was an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I had never known anyone with Autism. I felt lost and sad. All I could think about was my little boy’s future. Will he have friends? Will he go to college? Get married? I was torturing myself. I had many sleepless nights. I felt like my whole world was upside down. My son couldn't speak for three and a half years. To not hear the words momma and dada was devastating.
But Thank God for early intervention, the therapists and the doctors. When I felt helpless, they gave me knowledge. I also did my own research. I wanted to know everything I could so I could have a better understanding and cope with him. I want to share my story because somewhere out there there's a mother and a father who are going through the same thing. And maybe they won't feel alone the way I did. Maybe they will have the support they need because there are people who are spreading awareness throughout the world. And this is why I will walk, not only to raise awareness, but to speak for all children that cannot speak- to fight for my boy. I love you Matt!