Because April is Autism Awareness Month, we believed that it would be beneficial to learn about how autism impacts different families who are affected by it. In this blog, we wanted to share the story of Mrs. Ellen Mullen and her husband who care for their autistic grandson, Charlie.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself and your family.
My husband and I have lived with Charlie since he was 6 months old. We moved him and his parents to Alaska to live with us. When he was 5, we became his guardians. We moved from Alaska to North Carolina in 2015. My husband is retired and I am a housewife. Charlie keeps us young and on our toes.
Q: How was it first discovered that your grandson was autistic?
Someone from Fairbanks Social Services was coming to the house to work with him. He was under 2 years old and she told me that I should get him checked out/tested because she said he was showing signs at 2 years old.
Q: How old was he when he was diagnosed?
4 years old
Q: Are there any characteristics that stood out about him before diagnosis?
Not saying words, only Oma, Papa, eat. His eating habits were not good, even then. Did not crawl or walk very much. He would only smile at certain people, was behind in everything.
Q: What are some challenges that you face caring for an autistic child?
He eats different food. Trying to potty train him. Calming him down either if it’s a melt down or temper tantrum. Teaching him about strangers good/bad ones and acting out in public.
Q: What have you learned from raising him?
Be Patient! At times, you are not in charge anymore. It’s challenging. He is one of the most loving children that I have ever seen, but you can’t expect him to act the same way twice. He keeps you on your toes. I’ve learned to be calm and staying calm through melt downs and tantrums.
Q: What are some activities that he really enjoys?
Watching airplanes take off and land, playing outside, going to Monkey Joes. He loves to help clean up either at home or at school. He likes to go out walking and helping in the yard.
Q: How did his diagnosis of autism change your life?
My husband and I were talking about retiring and when the diagnosis came, all of a sudden we were asked by his parents if we wanted to become Charlie’s guardians. They (his parents) didn’t want the responsibility of raising a special child.
Q: What advice would you give to other caretakers of individuals with autism?
Just have patience and be calm. When they start yelling or screaming, if they throw things put them in time out on the floor. We also go a lot of professional help from doctors, behavioral specialists or anyone else that is needed. I have also read boks and found other people in the same position as me. I take it one day at a time. At times, it seems to change weekly.
Blogger: Mrs. Ellen Mullen
**TBTW would like to say a thank you to Mrs. Mullen for participating in our blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and allowing us to share your story!