my amazing and autistic boy: an autism awareness month highlight by Rosy Rodriguez

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I would be remiss if I missed an opportunity to share about my beautiful boy, Vicente. All my life I dreamt of being a mother. It’s been the one thing I’ve always known I wanted to be. Before kids, I had numerous dreams where I was pregnant and I could feel the joy and anticipation in such a real way. When I met my husband I knew we were not only meant to share our lives together, but I knew that there was no one else I’d rather parent with. I knew that with him by my side I could handle just about anything. Boy oh boy, was I right.

When my daughter Emilia was a toddler (and while I was pregnant with Vinny) we learned that she had an auditory processing delay (simply put, she had a huge vocabulary but had a hard time processing thoughts into conversations) and she might possibly be “on the spectrum”. Autistic? What on Earth were the doctors talking about? She’s perfect! After a few hours of denial, we set straight to work and began reaching out to everyone we knew with experience in special education and therapeutic interventions. All our friends who’ve been down this road before, friends who worked in pediatric psychology, teachers and therapists and anyone else who was willing to help quickly became a part of our “Team Emilia”. I’m proud to say that Emilia no longer presents any kind of speech delays or social anxieties and in fact, she’s quite the show-off and blabber mouth!

Then came our perfect boy, Vicente. We thought we’d recognize the “signs” of spectrum activity right away since we’re essentially pros, right? One thing people need to understand about autism is that it’s as unique as a thumb print. If you’ve met one person with autism that doesn’t mean that autism will present the exact same way in the next person. When Vinny started preschool, we finally saw the behavioral issues that often lead to autism diagnosis (lack of socialization, behavioral issues, aggression, etc.) and we set to work just as we’d done with Emilia. Except this time was different. This time we didn’t have a kiddo who was just on the spectrum, we had a kiddo with true autism. We needed to step up our game to guarantee our boy got all the intervention possible to give him a leg-up for his future.

I’d like to take a moment to speak directly to the folks out there who aren’t parenting kids with ASD or neurodivergence. First of all, it is super ok for you to ask us questions! We love it when you take an interest and if you have kids growing up around ours, it’s an opportunity for us to help you educate them as well.  It helps your children become empathetic advocates to their peers and goodness, the world certainly needs more of that. Secondly, thank you for your support and friendship! This is a long road, and we all have the same goals in sight for our kids. We also want our children to grow up to finish school, find independence and meaningful relationships. Any time you include our special kiddos into the mix (even if our kids may not be up for all activities) is a wonderful opportunity for growth. Lastly, I’m just going to say it, please stop looking at us weirdly and assuming that we “gave” this to our children. No, scientists do not fully understand where autism comes from. No, my child with ADHD is not a spoiled brat. Yes, you can be extremely intelligent and still be on the spectrum. The internet is an incredible resource and I encourage you to ask Siri a few questions before frustrating another one of us out on the playground.

Now, back to my hilarious and loving little guy! It’s been a bumpy road and one that many parents out there understand. Vinny has an RBT (registered behavioral therapist) shadowing him at school to help correct behaviors and push him to socialize and interact with others. He also has Speech and Occupational Therapies daily in school to not only provide him with the necessary intervention but since it’s at school, these ladies are able to work with his teacher and RBT as a team, so everyone’s work and progress is supported and consistent. There’s also a second RBT he works with after school twice a week where he gets one-on-one therapy to further improve communication skills, socialization, and school readiness activities. On Saturdays, Vinny participates in a Social Dynamic Play Group led by this Speech and Occupational Therapists where kids with varying challenges get together and through game play, they learn to win, lose, share, communicate and problem solve. We also have this active boy in weekly swim classes and karate classes because his need for activity is endless!

Are you tired just reading all of this? Welcome to our lives! My daughter recently said to me, “Mommy, I’m really sorry you have to have a kid with autism.” I quickly responded, “Sweetheart, don’t ever be sorry for me because of that. This world needs special kiddos like Vinny and Daddy and I are so proud God chose us to be his parents. We’re not upset about it because we know we can handle it and give Vinny everything he needs to be successful!” I meant that answer from the bottom of my heart. My boy is absolutely perfect, and we’ll never stop working to provide all he needs to be his best self. Vinny is currently in a small private preschool with neurotypical kids and we’re so fortunate that he’s able to thrive in this environment. His behavior continues to improve weekly and he’s testing into the “average” range in his computerized testing! We’re so fortunate to have such an amazing team in place to help us get him there and are constantly pushing him to take new risks and go on new adventures as often as possible. He’s even become an annoying little brother and it doesn’t get more “normal” than that!

For any of you out there struggling with a spectrum diagnosis of any kind, the best advice I can give you is to face it head-on and reach out for all the help you can get. I find it’s better to go a little crazy with the therapy and then back off later then to “wait and see” how it goes. It truly takes a village and if you’re looking for more than a “village idiot”, feel free to reach out to me directly for a little help! I’ve been in your shoes and know what it’s like to feel alone and isolated in navigating this world. You certainly aren’t alone, and if you’re looking for that first person to help you start the process, I’m more than happy to pay it forward. Our special kiddos are a bright light in this world and the more we share them and their stories with others, the brighter place this world will become.

A few extra things…             

*To be clear, if you have any kind of neurodivergence, such as ADHD, ADD, “giftedness” or sensory sensitivities, experts now consider that to be on the spectrum. The spectrum is a great big place and I’ve included a link with information on how different types of neurodivergence intersect (I love a Venn diagram)!

**Here’s another link with a list of celebrities who are identified as having ASD (autism spectrum disorder). It’s fascinating to me how limited our perceptions have been of ASD for so many years (ASD is definitely more than just Rain Man) while this has been under our noses for centuries!

**If you aren’t already obsessed with Love on the Spectrum then please go straight to Netflix and YOU’RE WELCOME! In a world full of so much hate, this show is the light we all deserve! The first two seasons take place in Australia and there’s now been two seasons in the US. You will laugh-cry the entire time and root for your favorite people as they claim their rights to love and companionship, just like the rest of us.

***For more information and additional resources, please visit