The DeSpain Family | Texas | Kerlyn Van Gelder Photography
Brandon, age 15 "free, confident & loving"
Lilian, age 7, "loving, driven & giving."
This beautiful Spectrum Inspired session was done in Texas by the incredibly talented Keryln Van Gelder Photography. Both Brandon and Lilian are on the spectrum and loved ridiculously hard by their family. Word to follow were written by their mother, Amanda.
My journey began when I met my husband almost 9 years ago, and with him I met my step son. He was non-verbal for the most part and was everything people expect autism to be. The only thing was that I had no idea what Autism was or that it even existed. He was born incredibly premature and had already faced so many struggles in his life, and yet here he was, happy and as healthy as he could be. He also has a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis which is where the doctors focused all of their medical attention. Now, when I met him he had no diagnosis in regards to his neurological health other than he was obviously delayed in several areas. He was mostly non-verbal with only a few words in his vocabulary, enough to get his point across and tell you what he needed. His primary caretaker was his maternal grandma who welcomed me into his life with open arms. I became pregnant with my daughter soon after and my husband left for Afghanistan 5 months in to my pregnancy. I made it a point to become as involved as I could with my step son, to learn from him and I fell in love with him. Here is this unique child facing so many struggles without a care in the world and with all of this love to give. I thought it was amazing. I began my own search for answers as to why he was delayed and this led me to Autism. He was the beginning of my journey as an Autism mom.
Then came Lillian DeSpain, from day one she was unique. She didn't cry at delivery, instead she just stared my husband square in the eye and silent as can be. My husband followed her to the nursery and says she didn't even cry when she received her firs immunizations. Two weeks after my husband left back to Afghanistan and there I was caring for a newborn and a special needs sibling. He intrigued me and I loved him with all I had, and I felt I owed it to him to understand him. I watched Lillian grow and very early on I began to see the signs begin to peak through. She wasn't meeting all of her milestones at her check-ups and her pediatrician kept pushing it off. Her speech wasn't developing as it should have, and yet she was so smart in other ways. My daughter could point out numbers and letters and shapes, but couldn't communicate with me. She refused to walk and we didn't get her to walk till she was about 18 months and even then her motor skills were incredibly delayed. Lillian would never sleep and night duty was shared between me and my amazing mother in law. THe only way she could sleep is in her grandmothers arms with a lot of deep pressure applied. The sensory issues began to become apparent with noises bothering her, or textures of foods making her gag and throw up. I knew something was different, and through all of my research I had done for my step son, my mind screamed AUTISM. Every pediatrician could agree she was delayed but refused to get me any help. Finally I came to my third pediatrician who I could never thank enough. She listened to me and told me as a mother I know my child and with no problem at all, she sent us to a neurologist. By age my daughter was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. The neurologist told me that we would get her the services she needed and continue to monitor her progress. I had all the answers I needed and I drowned myself in everything autism. I researched it day and night in order to be the best mother to my children. I wanted to give them everything they needed to succeed and I wanted to be their advocate. Lillian has come a long way and has flourished with her early intervention. By age 5 she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and I was faced with the fact that this was our life now.
I believe that my step son was put in my life for a reason, and not a day goes by that I am not thankful for him. He prepared me for life as an Autism mom and I honestly believe he gave his sister a fighting chance. My children are miracles and my inspiration for all that I do. My third child is a nerotypical child who gets to live and love the life that is Autism. He is the most loving and understanding child who shows me that love has no boundaries. He loves his brother and sister for everything that they are and doesn't even recognize the differences. It doesn't bother him that his older brother doesn't talk to him, he includes him and loves him just the same. He helps and encourages his older sister even when she is having a complete meltdown. He is typically the target of her frustrations and even through all of that he understands and he loves her. Autism isn't all sunshine and rainbows and it has definitely taken a lot from me, but has given me so much more in return. I believe that siblings are an incredible part of success in the world of Autism and my three kids prove that..... undeniable love without limitation.