Monday, October 5, 2015

Autism Educational Series—What a Diagnosis Means—Max and Dexter

Tiffany Strong lives in Provo, Utah, with her husband, Will, and two boys, Maxwell, 4, and Dexter, 2. Max was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 and attends a wonderful autism preschool in Provo. Tiffany is also a middle school math teacher at Walden School in Provo. She loves her special family and wouldn’t want them any other way. Find her blog at SpaceshipMax. And read her post on "The Mighty" here: Why a Judgmental Comment about Our Son with Autism Still Hurts

When I was in junior high, my dad built a large, wooden soccer kickboard in our backyard.  I grew up in rural New Jersey, and we had a good amount of yard space to practice any sport we were playing.  This wood backboard became a tool to help me develop the skills I needed in the various sports I played.  I vividly remember throwing and catching lacrosse balls using the backboard.  I remember playing one-on-one matches with my dad using the backboard as my goal.  It was a resource which I used to help me improve.  It also was a way to bond with my dad.  We spent hours outside together.  We would talk about sports and school, my dad would give me advice, and I would tell him goals I had for the future.  The simple tool of a backboard was a special connection with my dad. 

When Max was born, I was so nervous to be a mom.  I loved him with all my heart and soul, but I didn't know what I was doing.  Parenting was something new, and it was something I didn't go to school for.  I read books on parenting, on sleeping, on nursing, and having a happy, well-adjusted baby.  But when Max didn't hit basic milestones, was socially behind his peers, and I was unable to connect with him, I didn't feel like a good parent.  I failed.  I was failing my child.  I wasn't doing something right.  Max would spend hours screaming all day, would physically hurt himself, and was unable to communicate.  As much as I wanted to understand, I didn't.  I was frustrated, depressed, and worried that I was not a good mom. 

Then a miracle happened.  We talked to our pediatrician and explained the things we have been observing with Max.  He comforted us and told us there is help.  He also told us that we were not bad parents, but instead we are parents of a special child who is going to need our help to navigate through life.  At age 2 1/2,  Max was diagnosed with autism.  This was a year and a half ago. And since then I have been gathering tools that allow me to enter his world.  The diagnosis WAS NOT the end of the world, it was the beginning of a brand new one.  It was a world that I am so lucky to be a part of.  Autism has helped me reach both my children.  It has helped me be a better mother, wife and teacher.

 Max has been the best guide in the world.  He is a fantastic example of unconditional love, kindness, stubbornness, and devotion to his love for life.  He struggles; we all do.  But at least now he has parents who have tools to help him be successful!  Having two children with autism gives us even more tools because what we have learned works with Max might not work with Dexter.  We have to be constantly learning.

Autism isn't a label for my family; it is a tool, a guide, and a world that connects me to my boys.


  1. So happy to connect with you here and I look forward to knowing more about you and your amazing kiddos!!

  2. Thank you! If you're interested in being part of the series, I would love it! 😊