A Utah mom's viral Instagram post sends a powerful message to parents who don't have kids on the autism spectrum.
Jennifer Jeppson, mother of Whitaker, 6, Parley, 4, and June, 2, was tired of “non-special needs moms” always showing support for her in the wrong way. So she created a social media post to educate well meaning parents about her experience raising two boys with autism.
Jeppson told Popsugar:
“I wanted and want to share the realities of how autism not only affects my two boys but our entire family.”
Jeppson, 30, said the post and her Instagram page, which is dedicated to autism awareness, is her way of supporting parents with special needs children.
She explained to the website:
“When Whitaker was diagnosed five years ago, I was totally lost about what to do or where to start. Paul and I felt so completely alone and scared. Help from other parents who had a child with autism was key. As he grew, and as Parley got diagnosed, I had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends as they went through struggles similar to mine.”
“Parenting my children has been the hardest thing I've ever done and the most rewarding thing I've ever done. We both agreed that we didn't think we could handle having a child with autism. Yes, you read that right. Autism was something I had a very limited understanding of, a very biased view of and thought was one of the worst things that could happen ever ... Having children with autism has changed so much of who I am, it's hard to put into words.”
Jeppson said parents without kids on the spectrum often compared their parenting to hers. That's why the mom broke down her unique experience in the Instagram post.
For those who want to support moms and dads raising autistic kids, here are some things Jeppson wants you to know:
1. “Please don't put me on a pity pedestal.”
"I couldn't do what you do every day — I'd go crazy' or 'They're lucky they have you because I couldn't do it.' I know those comments are well-meaning. Truly, I do. But frankly, I have never felt like intervening and helping our children was a choice. It's always been something that we've had to do. So we've done it. It's not like lessons or little league where we made a choice to be involved — it's something our children need to have a shot at life. Those comments can feel isolating at times.
Maybe say: 'I really admire all you do for your children' or 'They are so lucky to have a mom that loves them so much.' Just make it a positive.
2. “Just do.”
[Include me in] a meal, send a text, invite me to a girls' night. If you ever have a thought to reach out to a friend or family member who's a parent to a child with special needs, do it! My life gets so bogged down with things that I'm always so grateful for when someone reaches out to me. At times, I can be so drained that I can't even think about maintaining friendships. It's not that I don't want to, but it's hard. Reach out and do.
3. “Give me the benefit of the doubt.”
If I forget to send a thank you note, am slow to call back or respond to a text, chalk it up to how overwhelmed I am. If I am quiet at a dinner or seem off, I am most likely trying my best to stifle my very tender and raw emotions.
4. “Understand I'm jealous sometimes.”
I'm jealous of your life unencumbered by therapy and doctors and school meetings and evaluations. I'm grateful you don't spend hours on the phone fighting with the insurance company or hours filling out paperwork. You're busy, too. I know you have your hard stuff, too. But you hopefully had a choice to get busy with [stuff], which is such a blessing. The fact that your children can do those things is a blessing, which we can easily forget.
Jeppson concluded her message by telling Popsugar that she just wants people to look at Whitaker and Parley as individuals, regardless of their autism.
The mom said her two boys are so much more than their diagnoses.