As selfish as it may sound, Ledricka Thierry said when her daughter was diagnosed with autism all she could think about was the things they would not be able to do together.
“That was my first child,” Thierry said. “She’s a little girl and everyone looks forward. ‘It’s okay. It’s all good’,” Ledricka said to Madison as she walked in to give her mom a hug.
“I was in a dark place, I didn’t know what to do, and it seemed very unfair. When she was younger and looking at her as a baby I had all of these dreams of I can’t wait until she’s this age and we’re shopping for prom dresses, planning her wedding, and you think about all of those things,” Thierry remembered. “I’ll be honest with you, as selfish it may seem, but when she first got diagnosed those are some of the thoughts you immediately say, that’s not going to happen now. She’s probably never going to be interested in planning a big wedding or doing the things that I thought we would do together as mother and daughter.”
Thierry said the first two weeks after the diagnosis were the hardest.
“I didn’t leave my house at all,” Thierry said. “I probably cried for 14 days straight.”
Thierry did the only thing she could do after those two weeks. She said she wiped away the tears and became that strong voice for her little girl.
“I needed peace and needed to be strong for her,” Thierry said. “As long as I was down she couldn’t get the help that she needed. I will tell you that it just clicked one day. One day I just said you have to help her, she needs you, and I started focusing more on her. My feelings went out the window and I never looked back.”
In 2007, Thierry said people were still learning about autism. The guidance that she would get from doctors was not the best and sometimes left her feeling hopeless.
“When she was first diagnosed they told us to never expect her to love or hug you,” Thierry said. “She’s not going to smile that much. In their minds, they were trying to prepare us and I was actually told not place any expectations on her.”
“How did that make you feel?” I asked.
“That added to my darkness,” Thierry answered. “As a mother, you think about your babies when they go through the infant stage that they need you; but as time goes one you do expect them to become a little more independent. You get to learn their personalities and engage with them. When she told me that, it made me feel like you’re telling me that I”m going to continue bringing this person around me but there won’t be any interaction between me and my daughter. I think it contributed to me feeling really sad.”
It’s been 14 years since Madison was diagnosed with autism.
Today, with he help of her family, she is thriving.
Madison is doing all of the things Thierry worried she would not or was told she would not be able to do.
“I just encourage her that the sky is the limit,” Thierry said. “She knows that I expect the same from her as I do my other two children.”
As for Madison, she said autism is just something she has and it does not make her who she is–she is just Madison.
“It makes me see differently than anyone else, but I’m still a good person,” Madison said.
While each day holds a different challenge, for Thierry and Madison, it is just another day. One they now know how to handle.