Aimee Muniz has always felt in her element when she’s helping people.
From her very first job at 17, she knew it was her calling. But unbeknownst to her, that first job would prepare her for the most important role of her life–raising her son Jaden.
“My very first job was working in an after-school program with kids with autism,” Aimee told HB.
“I’ve always had an interest in helping people with special needs and that was my very first job. I quickly moved up the ranks and I got intensive training and became a supervisor. Little did I know that I would have my own son with autism.”
Despite the fact that Aimee’s son Jaden had some delays before he turned one, Aimee didn’t suspect autism. But when he started to miss the development benchmarks of most kids, Aimee knew she had to investigate further.
“At 14 months, he wasn’t walking and he wasn’t babbling. That was a big sign. I told the doctor I wanted him evaluated for everything. The psychologist said ‘he’s a very bright boy and I’m on the fence but I want to diagnose him with autism.’”
Thanks to her background as an educator, Aimee sprung into action and within a month Jaden began receiving behavior analysis training, occupational therapy, clinical therapy and speech therapy. Aimee has been fortunate in finding continued, quality education for her son in Brooklyn, NY.
But she admits to having rough days and questioning her abilities as a mother.
“Only another parent of a child with autism can understand. I’ve struggled with a lot feelings. I’ve dealt with anger. Anger at myself, anger with him. It’s not his fault. That’s the hard part about this. He can’t help who he is, but I’ve been angry with him. Over the years, I’ve been angry at the autism, hating the autism. “
Like many mothers of children with autism, Aimee turned to online support groups for help. Aimee learned through communicating with adults with autism to not hold anger against autism because the condition is part of who a person is.
It’s gets tough as a stay-at home mom, but Aimee turns to her faith and strong support system to get through the trying times.
“The one thing that has gotten me through is my faith in God. I pray every day. I read the Bible every day. With God’s help, with my husband’s help, my family and my friend’s help, I thank God that I have a huge support system.”
Despite the trying times and setbacks, Aimee wouldn’t change anything about her child’s autism. “My husband and I have talked about if there was a cure for autism, would we want to cure him. At the end of the day, the answer would be no. We wouldn’t want him to cure because we love who he is.”
Jaden is currently excelling in an integrated program with a class of his peers and other children on the spectrum. He will be headed off the junior high in the fall.