Every day I find myself advocating for my daughter, Mara.
Mara is three years old and was diagnosed with autism when she was 18 months old. She is a fearless and determined little girl, and, as her mom, I want to do everything I can to get her everything she needs.
When Mara was diagnosed, I’ll be honest; I took a few days to feel sorry for myself. Then I snapped out of it and realized every day I spend grieving who I thought my daughter would be is a day wasted. My focus could be on getting her help for the person she is. And I don’t want to waste a day.
A close friend of mine works at Fraser, and she was my first phone call after Mara was diagnosed. After our conversation I realized I could put Mara’s name on a bunch of wait lists, or I could focus on the place I thought was the best, Fraser. We do not live close to any Fraser clinic. The closest one is Fraser Eagan and even that is a 40-minute drive, on a good day, with no snow. I knew Fraser would provide Mara with what she needed, so I was willing to make it work.
When Mara first started with Fraser, I was making the commute with her and our newborn daughter, Berit. Five days a week we’d drive the 80-mile round trip. Berit and I would try to find ways to keep ourselves occupied while Mara was in therapy. This became more and more challenging as Berit got older. She wanted to crawl around and was awake for longer periods of time. I was willing to do anything so that Mara could stay in autism day treatment, speech and occupational therapy at Fraser. I could tell a difference in her almost immediately. That told me, it was worth it. But spending most of the day sitting at Fraser Eagan meant I wasn’t available for my son and husband.
While I was noticing a change for the better in Mara, the commute was taking a toll on the rest of us. Something had to change. I took a huge leap and signed Mara up for a transportation service. I now meet her bus outside our house every morning where I fit her car seat into her spot and buckle her in. I then send her off while I get Mara’s older brother, Jadyn, and Berit ready for the day.
I think of Mara every second she isn’t with me and can’t wait for her to get home. We set up our basement as a therapy area with a swing and crash pads. I work with Mara on my own to practice the skills she learns at Fraser. Mara is making so much progress. She has a longer attention span. She no longer melts down when she hears the word, “No,” and she can request what she wants.
Mara is determined to get what she wants, and she makes sure everyone knows what that is. I’m just as determined to get Mara, and children like her, the help they need closer to home.
- Jenny Fuchs