My name is Amy Nielsen, owner and creator of the Big Abilities Blog and Podcast. I am happily married to a super nice Canadian and have four children ranging in age 4-31. Yes, you read that right!
My oldest three children grew up hitting their developmental milestones on time. Danielle is an Elder Law Attorney. Olivia is an up and coming YouTuber and interior design student. Trent is a college student planning to major in business.
While they were growing up, I was a teacher. I loved teaching! But after I got pregnant with my youngest son, Barclay, I was ready to be a stay at home mom. Little did I know what a great decision that would turn out to be.
Barclay was developing normally up until 18 months. He was imitating sounds and using some words. He was making eye contact and responding to his name. Then one morning, out of the blue, I noticed something off. The day before he said “Bye, Dad” as his dad, Brent, left for work. That was the first two-word phrase he had used and we were thrilled.
However, this day was different. As Brent was leaving for work, Barclay stood at the baby gate the same as the day before and said “Bye” but nothing came after. He seemed to be stuck. It was like he was trying to find the word and he couldn’t. He was frozen in thought. Frozen in space. He had checked out. A lot of parents may have overlooked that seemingly insignificant moment, but to me, it was like a bright spotlight shining on my son, and I had no idea what it meant.
Barclay went on to be diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Over the last year and a half, he has gone through early intervention, speech therapy, occupational therapy and is currently in 30 hours a week of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy.
At first, I kept looking for what would “fix” my son. After all, a “disability” is a strike against what is considered “normal” and here is my child with three strikes against him. From that first morning when I saw that spotlight until tonight as I write this blog, I have spent a better part of everyday learning; learning about Apraxia, learning about ADHD, learning about ASD, taking courses, reading books, pouring over the internet, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos.
Although I have learned a ton of information on how to help Barclay, that is not the most important thing I’ve learned. The most important thing is this, I am no longer trying to “fix” him. I couldn’t be more proud of him, labels and all. I see how resilient and unique he is. I see him succeed after working hard on things that come easy for most kids. I see him learning right before my eyes and it’s a miracle!
If you were to ask my family I am pretty confident they would say I am obsessed. I am constantly updating everyone on Barclay’s progress and what I’m learning. I seriously needed another outlet, which is why I started the Big Abilities blog and podcast. I hope to help families shift their mindset from “fixing” their child, to “accepting & embracing” their child.
We work hard to help Barclay overcome his struggles, but we do it within a framework of respect for who he is and what he is capable of. I am excited to share stories from our experiences and hopefully, this will help uplift, inspire, and motivate other families who share this special parenting experience with me.
I am thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled upon my strength. – Alexandra Elle