The Things I’ve Learned – Autism

Michelle and Sydni

There’s a lot that life throws our way that we weren’t expecting. I know that challenges and trials refine us, make us stronger, make us more empathetic and we take that learning and can help others with deeper understanding.

I also know that in the midst of some of my challenges and trials, I’d just assume “skip” a few and move on. But, it doesn’t work that way.

My daughter, Sydni, has autism. She is my 3rd child, (and first and only girl). I remember when my doctor told me I was having a girl. I was so excited!

I didn’t notice anything different with Sydni. She was quiet and repeated a few words of things she would “echo” from us. I was so busy with three kids that I really didn’t notice anything developmentally not on track.

When she was 18 months old, I got a new calling in my ward (kind of like a job in my church) to be in the nursery. There was around eight kids turning 18 months of age (that’s when they get to go into nursery) so it was filled with little people her age. I was astonished at how well they spoke, how well they played with toys appropriately, using imaginative play, but mainly how many words they spoke. Sydni hardly said anything. That was my first indication something was amiss. I got her into a speech therapist right away, thinking she just needed to catch up on her language and all would be well. But, there was a much longer road ahead. Her behaviors were strange. She didn’t interact with other kids much. She ignored most adults sometimes. She would climb and try to get things she wanted instead of ask. She had trouble sleeping and was very unpredictable. The word, unpredictable, fit her perfectly. When she was 1 – 3 years of age, she would take off her poopy diaper and smear her poop all over the walls in her bedroom, on toys, on her carpet. I was pregnant with my 4th child, in a long standing verbally and emotionally abusive marriage that would soon end and looking back, amazed I survived those early years with her. I found the doctors wanted to watch her behaviors and track her developmental progress before they would give me a diagnosis. I got her started on early intervention with different programs. When the doctor gave me the diagnosis of autism I was relieved to have something to work with.

Today, Sydni is 14. She has made some gains; she doesn’t do the things she did as a toddler and she talks pretty well, although you can’t have a conversation with her. She speaks in questions but something she will answer questions appropriately. She has been through seizures, which have gone away, thankfully. She has severe scoliosis, which we discovered over Spring Break this year. She has good days and bad days. Hormones and going through puberty have added to her elevated moods and there are times she is very aggressive with me and her step dad. Yesterday, she got frustrated working the remote to her little TV and instead of calling for help, she started to get upset, pound the remote on her table, which broke open the back and the batteries came out then threw the whole thing across her room which narrowly missed the caregivers head. It’s no picnic with her, let me tell you.


When things go well, we enjoy and savor every moment. When she does something good, she is praised and given accolades. Her favorite things are Littlest Pet Shop animals, swimming, jumping on the trampoline, movies and stuffed animals.

She loves people and I think really wishes she could communicate better. I think she knows something is amiss. But she is doing the best she can. We strive for more patience, more understanding, increased love, etc. We know we are serving her. She is a child of God and for whatever reason this is her affliction.

What I have learned so far:

-In the trials of raising a special needs daughter, I am surrounded and blessed with people that support and help me, and that I’m not alone.

-Things could always be far worse.

-We have to keep our “well” filled because Sydni tends to suck our well dry. It’s the dynamic of us serving her, helping her, assisting her, checking on her every need, and then when she’s aggressive towards us or her mood escalates it is really is draining emotionally and physically, so it’s essential we keep our well filled. I do that with daily prayer, scripture reading, faith building experiences, exercise (I need more of this), positive thinking, time for myself and time for my hobbies which bring me joy.

Michelle and Sydni

Jeffrey R. Holland said, “So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend.”

We have to focus on the bigger picture and what is beyond this earth life. It is easy to be downtrodden and lose hope. We are human and we have times of struggle. I’ve experienced this more than I’d like. I know there will be a day when Sydni will thank me, Mike (her step-dad), her brothers and countless others for all the love and service they have shown her. Until then, we keep serving and loving.

“I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last.” Jeffrey R. Holland, 2013

Since writing her story, Michelle has joined the Real Imprints team! We are lucky to have her! Check out Michelle’s bio on Real Imprints.

Story written by: Michelle Pope

This story was seen first on Real Imprints.