Finding inspiration in Mental Health Awareness Month

“Being open and honest about mental health is so important because I believe it’s a basic human need to not feel isolated. It’s a form of therapy to be able to relate to people.” 

Meet Luke

Meet Luke, 8 

My name is Roxanne and I’m the proud mom of 8-year-old Luke. Luke was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and faces a variety of sensory and emotional challenges on a daily basis. It’s obvious that he has so many deep feelings inside of him that he can’t express, and we just want to help him to get to that point someday because we know that would greatly benefit him as he grows up.  

Being open and honest about mental health is so important because I believe it’s a basic human need to not feel isolated. It’s a form of therapy to be able to relate to people. I’ve seen Luke grow so much both physically and emotionally over the years. He’s become accustomed to his daily therapies and has become more tolerant of working hard in school and using the skills he learns in therapy in his everyday life.  

Although he still struggles in social settings, he truly appreciates and loves people. He might not interact the same way as we might, but I know he’s working so hard to get there some day. As his parents, we hope for him to be accepted and understood by people who don’t necessarily know his intricacies. There are very subtle things that he does to show us that he understands us, but we’d love for everyone else to know him the same way. 

Learn more about Luke in this Q&A as his mom, Roxanne, discusses her son’s journey on the spectrum and the importance of mental health awareness in the autism community: 

Luke and his dad

What is your connection to Autism Speaks? How has the organization provided support through your son’s autism journey?  

Luke and his mom

I didn’t know much about autism when Luke was diagnosed at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. They told me to look into Autism Speaks as a resource and it has been great to be part of that community. Knowing there are other families out there going through similar things means so much. Knowing Luke’s not alone is comforting but being able to count on an organization like Autism Speaks to provide resources and access to services is even more comforting.  

What are some of the biggest mental health challenges Luke has faced recently? 

All of Luke’s challenges are sensory-related - especially balance. We want Luke to be balanced and we want him to enjoy physical activity. His sensory needs are difficult for even us to handle.  

What supports or strategies helped him cope with those challenging moments? 

Luke has headphones; they are extremely helpful in noisy situations. He also enjoys wearing hats and swinging. Luke will give himself a break when needed. He resets by taking some space for himself with his favorite book.  

Luke soothing

Luke’s favorite way to self soothe is by using his rocking chair. He started using a small one in his classroom at school. We thought it would be a good idea to have him use a big one at home. He has loved it and we keep it in our living room so he spends more time with us while using it. We love our Luke and try our best to understand all his sensory needs! 

What have been your biggest challenges as parents with a child on the spectrum? 

Our struggles in trying to help Luke with mental health occur when we are faced with making judgment calls for his future. We don’t always have access to the same information and resources that parents with typical children might have.  

What advice would you give to other autism parents who may be struggling with their mental health? 

My advice to other parents would be to really try to set your expectations for happiness and less about your vision of what you thought your child’s life should be. Focus on the quality of your child’s life, not the personal expectations you created in your mind.