Our oldest son, Mark, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy after a brain injury during labor, and was later also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Derek, our youngest, was diagnosed with Classic (low functioning) Autism when he was 15 months old, and our lives were never the same after meeting both of them. As a mom, I struggle, and am often overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising two young boys, with various developmental and medical problems. However, with help from my husband, family, friends, and a great support system, I think I am raising two amazing young men. Mark is now a senior in high school, is enjoying the adventures of being a teenager, and is beginning to explore his options for college. Derek is in middle school, and works very hard everyday to overcome the challenges of communication barriers and everyday social acceptance. He loves to play with hot wheel cars, play outside on our swing set, and is presently learning how to use an adaptive communication device! My family and I still struggle with things sometimes, but I think that we do a good job loving each other.
Every day we live with the direct effects of autism. The challenges are great and require a constant devotion from each family member, with some days requiring more energy than others. Mark and Derek have blessed us with so many wonderful moments but have changed the way we are able to approach events that others are able to do on a regular basis. Autism affects us as a family mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. We haven’t been able to attempt a true family vacation together in years.
Autism on the Seas is a non-profit company that allows families like ours to experience a vacation that at one time we would have imagined to be impossible. They arrange specific special needs accommodations with the cruise lines and they provide professionally qualified staff to assist us with expedited port check-in, meal assistance, pool time supervision, beach excursions, respite (time for [insert family member name with autism] to be well cared for while the rest of the family can do other things), and many other perks and assistance. Autism on the Seas also provides pre-cruise professional consultation and valuable resources, including connecting with other families for support.
I have registered our family for an Autism on the Seas cruise next summer, and am hopeful this vacation will be successful with the support of the staff. This program and the extra hands that they will provide gives my family the opportunity to take a genuine vacation together as a family while my children are still children. This fundraising campaign is designed to meet the financial commitment of a vacation with extra staff members and accommodations for children with autism. All donations go directly to the organization, and are applied towards the final cost of the trip. Any amount that you are able to contribute will be helping our family achieve an amazing opportunity that would otherwise be impossible. We appreciate you reading our story and helping us plan a trip that we have always dreamed of.