Paige M. and her mom Stephanie have learned and grown togetherMay 5, 2022
Paige M. experienced many challenges growing up autistic, but with the love and support of her mom, Stephanie, her father, Brian, and extended family and friends, she has blossomed into a funny, spunky 18-year-old with a deep love for art, writing stories and expressing herself through singing, dancing and painting. Paige has grown leaps and bounds over the last four years, and she has inspired her mom to grow as well, helping her discover her passion for making a difference in the lives of people on the spectrum and their families.
In these Q&As, you will hear from Paige and Stephanie, learn more about their journeys and explore the resources that have helped them along the way.
Meet Paige M.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m 18 years old and I was diagnosed with autism when I was 8 in 2nd grade. I like to ride bikes, play basketball, paint, play on my phone, text, draw, play board games and go shopping.
How has having autism affected you growing up?
I don’t like when it’s loud and I have a hard time staying calm.
How do you calm yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed?
Deep breathing, taking a break, doing a puzzle, watching TV, reading a book or taking a nap.
How has your mom supported you throughout your life?
My mom is the best thing that ever happened to me. She helps me with cooking and makes sure I get to my doctor’s appointments. She helps me make decisions and helps me use my coping skills.
What do you appreciate the most about your mom?
She’s very thoughtful. She’s very helpful. She’s a demon when she’s doing arts and crafts, but she’s a great shopper. She takes care of me when I’m sick. She watches her grandmother and helps out with her, and sometimes I help out too.
How are you going to celebrate Mother’s Day this year?
I’m up for going out to dinner on Mother’s Day. I’m a foodie—that’s how I am. Pancakes are my favorite—IHOP is to die for.
Meet Stephanie M.
Can you tell me a bit about Paige and her journey with autism?
We started noticing some issues when Paige was in kindergarten. Her behavior just continued to get worse with sharing, having trouble sitting down, doing work, focusing and interacting with other kids. She hasn’t had a lot of friends throughout school because of behavioral issues. She would get really aggressive and kick, hit and scream growing up.
She has overcome a lot in the last four years. A lot of her behavioral issues have gotten extremely better, so we don’t see much of that anymore. She wears headphones to cope with her sound sensitivity. We were seeing a lot of aggression about three or four years ago, but she’s using her coping skills now.
How has Paige’s autism impacted your experience as a mother?
It’s changed my life completely. My son is a typical 21-year-old and Paige has had a lot more challenges. She was born with cleft and had a lot of health issues from the very beginning as well as the behavioral issues.
My goal in my life is to make a difference in someone else’s life. I really want to make a difference in the autism world helping other parents find different strategies that might help their kid because they’ve helped mine. I work in the special education field and have been doing this for years because it means so much to me.
What is the most rewarding thing about being Paige’s mom?
Paige has taught me about the person that I want to be. Had I not had her, I would be a completely different person. She’s taught me things about myself that I didn’t even realize and taught me who I was meant to be as I got older so I can try and make a difference in other people’s lives. I’m learning just as much from her as she is learning from me.
What resources have you found that have helped you better support Paige?
Two different times, we did intensive outpatient care at the autism clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We also went to the Family ECHO: Autism trainings to learn different techniques, like using schedules and teaching Paige how to use her words more. Gradually, we got to where she was able to do tasks for longer periods of time. We had to teach her these skills many times because her behavior would get better and then get worse again, like she was on a rollercoaster.
Over the last four years, she’s gotten much better since she’s started going to the Boundless program. Between the techniques that I learned from Family ECHO and Boundless, we’ve been able to dramatically help her. It’s night and day from where she was before to where she is now.
Autism Speaks has also helped me access different resources for Paige for issues that have come up as she’s gotten older—one was for dating because she got a boyfriend this year. There were different things I did not know how to approach, so I contacted Autism Speaks and they sent me some resources and funded me to go to the Autism Speaks conference in Columbus, Ohio.
How has Family ECHO helped you?
Family ECHO trainings reminded me to make a schedule, make lists and try different techniques that we had already done in the past. It helped to refresh things in my mind because I haven’t had to do some of those strategies since Paige’s behavior has been so much better for the last couple of years.
Over the last four or five years, Paige has been part of a summer program through her school which gave her and our family as a whole the consistency that she needs in her everyday life to help keep her behavior under control. This summer will be the first summer she will not have that, so doing the ECHO workshop gave me simple reminder that I need to have things ready for her for this summer to avoid triggers if all possible.
Paige can get bored after being out of school for longer than a week, so the lists and schedules will play a huge part of our summer along with other the different strategies that I have learned from ECHO and her school. We will try to tie them all together to keep her past behavior just that—in the past!