I’m Megan and I’ve been married to my husband Manny for 7 years and we have three beautiful children. Our son Logan is 6, our daughter Liliana is almost 3 and our youngest, Laila, is 10 months. Our family is not perfect but our love runs deep and we are extremely blessed to have one another. Our journey has not always been easy, but with the support and love of our family we have continued to overcome life’s obstacles. This is our story…
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mom. My husband and I knew we wanted a family and we very quickly started ours – I got pregnant a month after our wedding! We were thrilled! I dreamt of meeting my baby through my whole pregnancy, and dreamt of the amazing life we’d have together. We didn’t know if we were having a girl or a boy, but on 12/12/12 our sweet boy Logan Daniel was born. He was absolutely perfect! I remember looking at him for the first time and just feeling this profound sense of peace that he was meant to mine. I was meant to be his mom. I was overjoyed.
Those first few months were honestly amazing. Logan was a dream baby! He was so happy, never cried and was sleeping through the night by a month old. We definitely hit the jackpot when it comes to newborns! The days kept on and my love for Logan just continued to grow and grow. Every day I woke up to him felt like Christmas morning. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true! He filled my heart in a way I never knew was possible. My love for him is endless.
As time went on, especially after Logan’s first birthday, I began to worry that my sweet boy seemed to have some delays. Mainly his speech. He had a few words but he didn’t use them consistently and he wasn’t adding to his vocabulary. I brought up my concerns to his pediatrician and though she was supportive, she felt that Logan was totally “fine” and that he’d catch up. I tried to push my worries aside but I just knew that he needed a little extra help.
At 18 months I pushed to have him evaluated by early intervention. His doctor still felt he was ok and didn’t see any “major red flags” but she agreed that we could have him evaluated. After his evaluation we learned his speech delay was on the mild side for his age, but he did qualify for services. We started doing speech and occupational therapy in our home two days a week. Therapy was definitely helpful but it was a slooooow process. As the months went on his therapists continued to be happy with his progress but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that we were dealing with something else. Something bigger.
When Logan turned three, he aged out of early intervention and began going to preschool through our school district where he also received speech and OT. The first week was definitely hard on both of us (lots of tears!) but Logan quickly began to love school. He was so happy there and really seemed to enjoy it.
Around this time I had also given birth to our daughter. This was a verrrrrry tough time for us. Liliana was colicky, and she would scream for hours on end. She also never slept…she was basically the exact opposite of how Logan was as a baby! It was HARD. I felt so guilty because she was so high maintenance and needy and I worried about Logan. He did ok with the new baby, but I did notice some new behaviors that were concerning. Logan began running and crashing into walls, and screaming LOUDLY. It was a happy scream, not that he was in distress, but it was soooo loud and it was constant. He also seemed completely disinterested in being a big brother, he really paid no attention to her. These behaviors combined with his still lagging speech made me more concerned than ever.
At the end of that school year I went to Logan’s parent teacher conference. His teacher had mostly great things to say about him; he was always happy and cooperative at school. However, his speech therapist was also there and he had concerns. He started asking me questions about Logan at home and about his overall development. I don’t know why but his tone made me uncomfortable. I felt defensive. He then said to me “has anyone ever said that he might have autism?” My heart sank. That word. Autism. For many months I had thought that maybe that’s what we were dealing with but I had never said it out loud. Hearing him say that was like someone calling me out on my deepest darkest secret and my WORST fear.
I left that meeting and I just sobbed. I called my husband and told him what the speech therapist had said. He was mostly quiet on the phone but later that night we talked and Manny told me he had been thinking the same thing. The crazy part is we were both thinking this but neither of us had said it to each other because we felt the other didn’t know and we knew how devastating that would be. Once it was all out there it actually felt like a weight lifted. We were on the same page and all we both wanted was to help our son.
At this point we knew we wanted to do a full neurological evaluation to get a diagnosis, but the question was when. I had gotten a lot conflicting advice on when would be the best time to do the evaluation. Most people (therapists, teachers, doctors) felt it was better to wait until closer to kindergarten. Manny and I knew we didn’t want to wait that long to get answers so I went ahead and got a referral from his doctor to see a specialist. Little did I know that specialist had a 6 month wait list! I tried calling other child psychologists and doctors but it turns out not very many work with kids as young as Logan. It seemed crazy to me and still does, wouldn’t diagnosing early be better? Most specialists in the field won’t see a child till age 6. Hence the very long wait list for the ones that will!
After a very long wait, we finally had our appointment scheduled for March 2017. I can’t even explain the prep that went into this appointment. Stacks and stacks of paperwork. Most parents need to fill out forms and paperwork for their children from time to time but if your child has special needs, this basically becomes a part time job! But finally we made it to the day of his evaluation. After several hours of him being seen by 4 different therapists and doctors, the specialist came him to deliver the diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Autism. There it was in black and white. There was no denying it or going back now. I felt the tears pour out of my eyes. The doctor delivered the news kindly but it still stung like I can’t even explain. My baby. My sweet boy who is PERFECT in my eyes had autism. I feel differently about it now but at the time it was soul crushing. We were devastated. Manny and I got in car and just cried. As much as we were expecting to hear this news (and we were) it was still so hard to process. I just remember saying “why Logan? Why us?” I wanted answers I knew I’d never get.
The rest of that day was blur. Many, many tears were shed. I went to bed that night and I prayed for God to give me the strength to get through this so I could help my son. The next day I woke up and I decided I was going to move forward. I was still sad but I pushed it aside and began looking into the therapy recommended by the specialist. ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy is most commonly recommended for autism. In the past I was hesitant about ABA because I knew how intensive it could be and other moms had told me it was too much for their kid. But at this point I was all in. If it was going to help Logan then I had to at least try.
Once again I was going through mountains of paperwork and meetings to get everything set up. It took months to get things going. This was a difficult time for me because all I wanted to do was move forward. Waiting for therapy to start just felt like we were standing still. It was also during the summer and Logan was out of school. All moms know how long summer can feel but when your child has special needs and they are out of the routine that school brings, it can feel overwhelming. And it did. I was doing my best just to get through each day.
Finally I got the call that Logan’s therapy team was all in place and we were ready to get started! To say I was relieved was an understatement. I just couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling. Shortly after Logan started therapy in home for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. Obviously this is a lot of therapy but that’s the whole idea with ABA, to immerse the child in therapy so they reach their full potential. I was nervous to have him doing so much, especially since he was already in school 5 mornings a week, but I quickly saw that he was bonding with his therapists and just how beneficial this process will be.
He’s now been in therapy for about 18 months and his progress has been incredible! He has more words then ever. He can dress himself. He can take off his shoes and coat when getting home from school. These things might seem menial to some but to us they are EVERYTHING. I couldn’t be more proud of his progress.
In the middle of all this, our family welcomed our last baby. Laila was born in April 2018. I was honestly pretty terrified of how I’d handle life with three kids…especially one with special needs! But somehow we were given exactly what we needed, Laila is truly an angel. And amazingly, Logan showed us a completely new side after she was born. He LOVED her. He seemed to enjoy his role as big brother. Such a departure from when Liliana was born- he barely even noticed her the first year! This time was completely different! He was engaged and participating in our family. It was honestly incredible to witness.
He also started kindergarten this past fall. After an exhaustive process of touring schools to find the right fit for Logan, we finally settled on a public school co-op program with our home school district and neighboring districts as well. The class Logan is in now is small and well staffed, they follow a curriculum that is specifically designed for autism. It was definitely an adjustment- starting at a new environment (and especially because it’s full day, I missed him SO much!) with new people and expectations, but Logan is doing amazing. For the first time ever, he is meeting all his benchmarks for his IEP! (I could do a whole other post on IEP stuff…I’ll save that for another day!)
Throughout this journey there have been many tough times. Times where I have questioned if I’m really capable of handling all this. I think it’s important to say that there is a grieving process involved. When you have a baby no one ever dreams they would end up dealing with this stuff. And then suddenly you’re thrown into it and it’s like being asked to swim with lead feet. It is overwhelming and daunting. I am an extremely sensitive person and my heart breaks on a daily basis when I read a sad article or see something sad on tv. I am by no means an emotionally strong individual! But what I’ve learned through all this is that I am stronger then I think. Because I have to be. And that strength comes from Logan. His smile carries me forward. His infectious laughter moves me when I can not move myself. I am blessed beyond words to be his mom. It’s amazing how deeply you can feel love even with no words at all.
While this journey is ongoing, I am still so proud of how far we have come. Proud of Logan for working so hard everyday and still having a smile on his face. Proud of myself for learning to fight and advocate for my son. Proud of my husband for being the best daddy out there and for being so amazing with Logan every single day. And I’m proud of our family for coming together and fighting this fight together instead of letting it bring us down. This journey can be lonely. I’m constantly listening to other moms conversations about their child’s achievements, whether it be sports or school, and in my head I’m thinking “well, Logan got his shoes today when I asked him to so that’s a win in my book.” There are times when it seems so unfair that he has to struggle with things that come so easily for other children, but getting caught up in that is a losing battle. I have to remind myself in those times that Logan WILL get there, it’s just going to take a little longer. And that’s ok.
To any family going through the same struggles, you are not alone. I know it can feel that way at times and that’s why I wanted to write this. Something I hear a lot from people is “you’re so strong, I couldn’t do what you do” and the truth is you could. It is hard, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time this is all I know. This is our version of normal. And ya know what? It’s not so bad! We are getting through it. We have hard days but we have GREAT days too. Autism is becoming more and more common, raising awareness AND acceptance is so important to me. I will continue to fight for Logan everyday of my life. The journey is long and it’s hard but he is worth every second of it.
Megan Carranza is a mother, podcast host/creator and autism advocate. After Megan’s oldest child, Logan, was diagnosed with autism in March of 2017, she became a mom on a mission to spread the message of awareness, acceptance and inclusion. Megan saw a need for more support within the autism community and launched her podcast, ‘Adventures in Autism’, in September 2018. The purpose of the podcast is to create a safe and supportive space for families and individuals affected by autism to come together and share their journeys. Megan was born and raised in Naperville IL, she currently lives with husband and children in Elgin IL.