I thought I had it all figured out.  My path was straightening out and I had direction.  I thought I had it all figured out, until once again, life throws me a challenge and tests my strength.  Life...it is not easy.

I try to practice what I preach and be the best person I can be each and everyday.  Teach by example and hope to inspire my children to dream big and follow their passion.  I empower moms to find their truths and dig deep, rediscovering who they are, who they were before they had children, and who they were meant to be.  I help them see that their hopes and dreams are not lost just because they now carry the title “mom”. I preach and I practice, I practice and I preach, and still I find myself struggling at times to stay positive and strong.  

I am in the middle of battling the school district, advocating for Caden to be placed in a school where he will thrive.  Who settles for their kid to survive, when they have potential for so much more. I have never been into politics, but I can say this with certainty, the government sucks.  Everything is about money. Money does control everything and that includes our children and their education. I have always struggled with feeling sorry for myself and Caden, or being angry at the schools or the “system.”  It is not about the children or their needs, or what is best for them, it is about how much things costs. Schools offer you the bottom of the barrel services, seeing if they can get away with it. They hope the parents are uneducated and unaware they can ask for more.  They will not offer your child more, just because they think you deserve it. If you don’t ask, you will never receive, and if you don’t fight, you aren’t going to win. So that is where I am at, in the middle of a battle. I know what Caden deserves and what he is entitled to, and I am not willing to back down and take a chance on his life.  

While my juggling act is in full effect, I get another ball thrown my way.  Kyle, my oldest, who is at a private school, just received testing from Los Angeles Unified School District, where his school falls under.  When he graduated 5th grade,and left our local Manhattan Beach Unified School District, I was under the assumption that his IEP career came to an end.  He has been in private school now for almost two years and is thriving. The Kyle we have always known has come out to show the world what he is made of.  It wasn’t until I attended my first and only special education meeting at the district earlier this year, that I learned kids who attend private school still maintain their IEP.  I was shocked to learn this, as I knew nothing, other than we were dropped the day we started private school. Why was this the first time I was learning about this? I was told some kids fall between the cracks and they do their best to locate them.  I raised my hand and said… “I'm right here, I am a mom of one of these kids.”

A week had passed and I was contacted by LAUSD to set up a date for Kyle’s triennial testing.  I thought this was all too coincidental to be happening right after I attended this meeting and made a fuss.  The testing dates came and went with the winter vacation holiday right in between. It took till the beginning of May to receive all the results and his updated IEP.  

The IEP meeting was held on a Tuesday morning up at Kyle’s school, and it was something that was oh so familiar.  I have done a hundred of these meetings, between my two boys and I was ready with my pen and paper to jot down all the progress Kyle had been making.  We went around the table, like we always did, introducing ourselves and our job titles. There were a lot of new faces, since this was now under a new districts lead.  I heard from the speech pathologist, psychologist and academic specialist. They all had amazing things to say about Kyle. Nothing I didn’t know or that surprised me. He is extremely bright and smart and such a sweet boy.  He lacks in reading, vocabulary and writing skills and it is due mainly from his difficulties in attention. They all agreed that he was about to explode academically, he was ready to take off.


Papers were shuffled and stapled, and reports were handed to me to keep for my records.  When the psychologist concluded her report, she discussed Kyle’s eligibility. She explained that his current eligibility was for SLD - specific learning disorder.  She was surprised it wasn’t for OHI - other health impairment. I pointed out that it was. Under his previous district he was eligible for both SLD and OHI. LAUSD only allows one diagnosis.  This is where the curve ball comes. They believed that Kyle should have his eligibility changed to AUT - Autism diagnosis… Yep - Autism.

Before they let me take a breath, they jumped on me.   “We know you may be taken aback by this…” she said. I cut her off and told her I was the last person that was afraid of the word Autism.  I am an Autism mom and I write a blog and now a book on how I have embraced that part of my life. I wasn’t shocked or even surprised at this suggestion.  My head was spinning a little and it was like my past flashed before me. All the moments we had ever thought Kyle may be on the spectrum, were clearly visible in my head.  The day Caden was diagnosed, my parents said, “if anyone is Autistic, it would be Kyle…”. It was true. Kyle was a brilliant (and still is) baby. He knew facts about every animal, things I would have to look up on the internet to verify.  He was always right of course. He would line up his toys and tell me about each and everyone of them, in detail, every fact; habitat, where they live, diet,

He was very particular about his toys and would bring them wherever we would go.  

As the years past, and we were learning Kyle was a different kind of learner, I researched and had had him tested from various professionals.  Kyle was very complex and not easy to figure out. It was known that Kyle had several Autistic like tendencies, but he never hit the numbers to qualify for an Autism diagnosis till now.  

I sat and stared at these three letters, AUT, that looked back at me from the paper.  AUT, what was the big deal? I didn't know. What did it all mean? I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything.  With Caden it was so easy. It was what I knew, it is what I did, I knew him as my son with Autism, and I was his Autism mom.  Now with Kyle, I didn't know what to do. Did I accept this new diagnosis? And if I did, what did that mean? Did it change anything?  I was the mom who was open and real, sharing my stories of accepting my boys for who they are, label or not, and now I found myself in a position of deciding to take this new label for Kyle.  I have been an open book always, never hiding anything or allowing my kids to feel less than because of a diagnosis. It took me years to explain to them, that like cars, we are all different, and we all take different kinds of gas.  I wasn’t sure how or if I could now tell Kyle that his fast race car of a body actually took a different kind of gas then we thought, he was now going to take the same kind of gas his brother Caden did.

I am having a difficult time with this.  I can fully embrace the Autism diagnosis.  Just as I saw Caden for who he was two minutes before his diagnosis, Kyle has and will always be Kyle, nothing will ever change that.  But I am not sure how I feel about telling him, at the age of thirteen that he has Autism just like his brother. All our family has ever known is that Caden is the one with Autism.  Autism in our world is defined by him. He is Autism to us. That is all Kyle knows, and he will no doubt see himself or think of himself to be Autistic, like his brother, explanation or not.  This is a tough one for me.

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As I try to wrap my head and heart around this Autism diagnosis, I am fighting with myself about sharing with Kyle.  I can’t help but wonder how and why he was never given this diagnosis before. It wasn’t for lack of not advocating for him.  Kyle has been tested by every doctor in every field that I could think of, that could give me a little insight into how I could help him.  Autism had definitely been brought up by each and everyone we had seen, but never diagnosed. Were these new doctors seeing something the others didn’t?  Had Kyle been misdiagnosed for the past 5 years? What would have his life looked like if he was given this diagnosis back then? Who do I trust? Who do I believe?  I know who I believe, I believe myself, and trust that I know my son better than anyone. I still however, need to decide on the diagnosis that will be stated on his IEP.  I may have to sit with this for a minute, but that is okay. I am going to allow myself time to process my feelings, and I am going to grant myself space to be in this moment for as long as I need.  If it were up to me, I would have the diagnosis be; KYLE. What could be a better, more accurate diagnosis than that?

We are all who we are, and we are all unique gifts to this world.  As parents, we should focus on teaching our children to love themselves, without giving them a label other than their name.  Teach them that they are worthy of all the wonders of the world and that they are capable of anything and everything just by being who they are.    

AutismAngela Wingard