Living With Autism

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder, is a neurobehavioral condition that can impair social interaction skills, speech and communication skills, repetitive behaviors and nonverbal communication. Before Alex, who is now 10-years-old, Eileen and her husband had no experience with autism. It existed, as it does with so many people, as something on the outside; they were aware of the condition, but it had no immediate impact on their lives. With Alex, however, all that changed.

“We had no experience with autism before. But when Alex arrived the reality of it set in. We researched everything we could find on autism so we could provide him with the proper guidance in terms of nutrition, exercise, as well as language and social skills.”

It was during that period of research that Eileen really started to understand the need for a permanent breast milk bank in Regina. And while a local breast milk bank might not have helped her cope with the realities of parenting an autistic child, the support they can offer mothers and parents could have been invaluable.

“A breast milk bank, especially one that is community-run, is not concerned solely with providing donations. That’s a large part of it, don’t get me wrong but it’s also about building a community that can help and support one another both physically and emotionally. It’s about building ties and being there for those that need help or a shoulder to cry on. That’s really it. It’s about helping people. Isn’t that something we should have? Isn’t that something we should support?”

Eileen can’t help talking about support. Support for newborns and mothers, for families and for the community at large. As a parent with an autistic child, a support system outside her family could have really helped and it’s something she wants to others to have, whatever the reasons.

“It can be very challenging, living with autism. It’s exhausting and stressful and there are times when I just want to give up. There can be drastic fluctuations in mood, difficulty communicating with one another and then the general difficulties of raising young children can be more challenging. But I can’t give up. I need to be there for my family. And maybe I can be there for others, too.”