This guest blog post is by Shannon Snell - mother of two children and an autism advocate.
My name is Shannon and I am the proud mother of two beautiful girls. My elder daughter, Joy, has severe autism.
Since her diagnosis, I have dedicated by life to “all things autism.” As an advocate, I fight for the rights of thousands of people by being a member of various boards dedicated to improving the lives of the autistic community.
As is the case with many parents of autistic children, the personal, emotional, and financial toll can be incredible. Shortly after my divorce, my best friend of 30 years passed away. It was such a heartbreaking time for my family.
I didn’t think I would find someone who would be comfortable around my family. Joy has a tendency to have loud and hyper behaviors in public, which unfortunately has turned many people in my life away.
Then three years ago, I met Matt. We had only known each other a short time before he met my Joy. Soon after, he offered to take all of us out to eat one day. Even though I was appreciative of his offer, I was terrified that while we were at the restaurant he would be embarrassed by her actions and I would soon never hear from him again.
Throughout dinner, the other patrons stared and gave us bad looks during Joy’s behaviors. Matt simply stared back and said, “what?!” He later told me how surprised he was by people’s lack of manners. The whole thing clearly upset him. He said he simply wasn’t raised that way.
In the midst of our relationship growing stronger, I would stop in amazement and think, “Why is this guy here? Can he really love me and my girls and be a wonderful father?” Yes, yes, and yes!
Looking back, I think Joy fell in love with Matt the minute she set eyes on him. They developed an amazing bond, which they have to this day. I never thought anyone would or could see Joy for all the beautiful things that I saw in her.
My advice to single parents would be to follow your gut – your instincts with people are more than often right. Never give up on the compassion of other people. They will, if you give them the opportunity, see the wonderful gifts our kids have.
At a time when my life was really falling apart, the universe showed me compassion, empathy and love by giving me Matt. He has said to me several times that the kids and I saved HIS life, but in a lot of ways I think we saved each other’s.