This blog post is by Ali Dyer, the Social Marketing Manager at Autism Speaks. Her older brother Jeff has autism. You can read more about Jeff and her family here.
“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” –Abraham Lincoln
Angels have always played a part in the relationship I have with my mother. You see when I was born, they were expecting, ‘Mickey,’ rounding out the Dyer brood with three boys. Instead they got Ali, and a tidal wave of pink. So as far I as I can remember, I was my mom’s angel and she, mine.
I am not the only one that has had my mom to ‘guide’ them. Let me try and explain…
Back in 1987 when my brother was diagnosed, the autism world was a dark place. You couldn’t hop on the web and pull resources or join a support group; you quite literally hit the encyclopedia. She must have been scared straight, uncertain as to what the future held for her beautiful son, but she took those steps into the darkness and created light.
Walking into an elementary school library for her first Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) meeting, a spark was ignited. She made connections; Real, true, human connections with people in the same boat. My mom also met her ‘lucky’ girlfriends who together changed the trajectory of every special needs student that went through the school district from that point on.
She knew that my brother could learn and did everything in her power to ensure that he did. My mom demanded that teachers, administrators, and community members respected every kid, no matter how they were ‘classified.’ Today parents struggle to get resources, my mom created them one IEP meeting or plant sale at a time.
My mom acted as the parent representative on hundreds of IEP meetings over the years (If you don't have a Carol, we have a guide!). She’s the best woman to have on your side, having it all. She loves fiercely and feels deeply. She is loyal, yet still proud for everyone’s accomplishments no matter how large or small. Her spirit is generous, never feeling like she gives enough being totally selfless in everything she does. She’s brave and hilarious and wacky and smart and everything I want to be. My mother is my heart.
She has always been my best friend. From the days when she’d be schlepping the three of us around, I was always at her side (or her feet under a table at a meeting). My mom went back to teaching part-time when I was nine. You can only imagine the ‘stomach aches’ I had during that transition period.
We were recently talking about Jeff saying just what an incredible guy he is. She said, ‘I wouldn’t change him for the world,’ but what I know is that she has changed the world for him, for all of us.
When describing my mom and I, people often say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. All I can hope is to be half the mom she is, looking as good and having as much fun as she is!