The Siegel Family | Phoenix, Arizona | Coleen Hodges Photography
Chase, age 3, "affectionate, intuitive and high energy."
Imagery by one of our co-founders Coleen Hodges Photography.
Cayce Siegel is a single mother who worked on Wall Street for 15 years before she decided to pursue her dream of having a family. She chose to leave the city, move to Phoenix, Arizona and get a sperm donor to make it all happen. In 2013, she gave birth to boy/girl twins, Chase and Delaney, prematurely. After a hard birth and an extensive stay in the NICU, the duo began to thrive. It wasn't until about 2.5 that Cayce became concerned about Chase's speech delay and sensory issues. While everyone tried to assure her that it was typical of boys, Cayce trusted her gut and insisted she have him evaluated. Once again, the mommy gut was right. Chase was diagnosed in August of this year with autism.
Here is the email Cayce sent out to her family and friends to let them know of his diagnosis and we believe it says so much about the strength, endurance and unconditional love within this family:
"If you are reviewing this email it's both because you have a special place in my family's life and because I trust that you will take this news as an opportunity to educate yourselves and those around you. My sweet baby boy was diagnosed as being on the autism "spectrum" yesterday. It is not extreme and with an exceptional amount of hard work, education and therapy, we all believe he will be able to be in a mainstream classroom by kindergarten. He is already enrolled in some amazing programs and will be begin even more exciting services soon; including equine therapy!
Autism is not a diagnosis that determines anyone's future. There is a reason they call it a spectrum. It is simply a different way of thinking that has some similar behavioral traits. Just as none of your two children are alike, neither are two children with autism. That is my challenge for each of you. I am asking that you learn more, ask more and really take the initiative to educate yourselves and others about this. It is only through education and awareness that we can help reduce the stigma and preconceived notions many people still have.
Chase is a beautiful, healthy and happy three year old. There are few things he loves more than music, swimming, giggling with his mommy and playing with his sister. Anyone who knows him knows how affectionate he is and that he truly has the sweetest soul.
Delaney is compassionate beyond her years with Chase. While he hasn't met many of the milestone she has-she is his biggest cheerleader and defender. She accepts her brother for who he is and never stops pushing him to be better, play harder and laugh more. Even when Chase is busy flapping his hands, you'll hear her say "nice flapping Boo. I'm proud of you. That's hard work." You've never really witnessed raw, unconditional love unless you've seen the two of them interact on a daily basis. Again, I challenge you to raise your "typical" children to know empathy and kindness even when it looks or sounds different to them. Listen to the words that come out of your mouth and the actions you take to illustrate these values in real life. It is those two things that will mold the future.
Of course, this has not been an easy road. There are layers to it that simply don't have words. And, finishing my nursing program and being outnumbered has been overwhelming while the three of us navigate this new chapter. There has been heartache, frustration, grief for a life we thought we would have and acute disappointment in some people. But mostly there is joy and acceptance. We have been incredibly surprised by the kindness, friendship and understanding of others. Sometimes it is the people you least expect who end up being your biggest advocates and supporters. There is such kindness in the world if you look hard enough. We are so blessed to have family and friends that have decided to take this journey with us. Many of you remembered his appointments, offered to take Delaney, included us in things, made things for his sensory issues, sent things you knew would make him happy and my life easier and mostly...showed up in every sense of those words. Thank you. Not one of those gestures has gone unnoticed.
My son is my son. No piece of paper can change anything about that. What it does, is allow him to get more help to become any even better version of himself. If you haven't had the opportunity or more importantly, if you haven't made the effort to get to know Chase or included him in things, you are missing out on something extraordinary. Your children are missing out on something even more extraordinary. Once again, I challenge you to open your mind and reach out. Maybe not to us but if you look around you, there are people on each side of you who need someone to really "see" their child who might not fit the "typical" mold. Do better. We all can.
If you really know me, you know I've wanted to be a mother more than anything on this Earth. It was a long road to get here but my little family is my entire world. We live a very different life than we would have if I had stayed in the city. But, its authentic and beautiful. Chase and Delaney have the luxury of being raised near their grandparents, aunt and countless friends. All good things. I knew the second Chase and Delaney were born (too soon-but they have always been fighters) that I was meant to be their mom and the the world was instantly a better place.
Finally, I am writing this because it is the last time I am going to focus on his diagnosis. Its necessary for awareness but I hope you will join me in checking labels at the door. Instead, my focus will be on his therapy, his happiness, his sister and making this life and world an even better place than we could have imagined. I hope you will do the same.
I beg you to be kind and raise kind children.
Cayce, Chase, Delaney, Petey & Olivia (they are very much a part of this team!)
PS-I thought you would all appreciate that this is Chase's very favorite song and video. The irony isn't lost on us of course.