Amanda Clark and her husband, Jeremy, have been married for six years and moved to Dallas two and a half years ago for Jeremy’s dream job as a private practice radiologist. Amanda works part-time from home for a large, national health care organization. They have three boys, Jackson, 5, Cooper, 4, and Austin, 1. Their middle son, Cooper, was diagnosed with Autism a little over a year ago.
6:50AM Alarm goes off. Jeremy is already in the shower. I feel the pressure to hustle since he’s taking Cooper to school this morning.
7AM Wake Cooper up. “Turn on dinosaur show, please, Mommy?” he asks.
7:30AM Walk Cooper out to Jeremy’s car so he can take him to the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD). Cooper cries for his dinosaurs because he can’t take them to school—a battle we have most mornings.
7:40AM By the time I get back in the house, Jackson is on the couch and ready for breakfast.
8:05AM Austin is up. He waves at Jackson from the stairs and says, “Hi!” Being a younger male sibling of an older brother with autism, he is 30%–50% percent more likely to have autism as well. His growing vocabulary is reassuring, but I always worry.
8:15AM Austin and I FaceTime Jeremy, just like every morning. I get the lunches out of the fridge and get the backpacks ready while Austin sits in his highchair.
8:30AM Get in the car, and head off to school. Jackson is the star of the week in his classroom, so we talk about the fun he is going to have today being the line leader again.
8:52AM We get to school early for the first time in a long time. The boys go to preschool three days a week.
9:25AM Drive to the gym, and make a mental to-do list. I remind myself to grab a snack for Cooper for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and to start looking at other ABA centers for when he graduates out of his current program.
9:40AM Walk in the gym, and get my cardio in for the day. Jeremy and I have made a goal to go at least four days a week.
10:25AM Get in the car, and head home for a shower. I quickly throw some food in the Crock-Pot. I make one of the boys’ favorite meals, red beans and rice stew, so I’m hoping it will make for a chaos-free dinner.
11AM Drive to PPCD and make it into the carpool line while fielding a work call.
11:10AM Buckle Cooper in the car and head to Jeremy’s hospital. Cooper is always in a good mood after PPCD. I let him know we are going to lunch with Daddy today. He plays with his dinosaurs on the ride there.
11:30AM Jeremy only has 10 minutes to eat with us, but it’s nice to see him and hear about his day.
12PM Drive to ABA. Cooper asks, “Go home, Mommy?” “No, bud. ABA first, then speech, then home.” He whines, and I think of ways to avoid a meltdown.
12:02PM As I’m pumping myself up to carry an unhappy boy to ABA, I realize that I forgot to bring a snack for him. I say, “Want to go get some Cheetos for snack, Cooper?”
12:30PM Cooper happily walks into ABA with his bag of Cheetos tucked in close to his side. Cooper started ABA a year ago, and he’s grown so much. This time last year, he only had five intelligible words.
12:45PM Drive to Starbucks. I’m almost finished with my latest work contract, so I’ve cut way back on my hours and am ready for a few months’ break.
2PM Off to preschool to pick up Austin and Jackson.
2:10PM Now to a sweet friend’s house nearby to play until it’s time to pick up Cooper.
3:25PM Drive to ABA. We see Cooper and then send him off to speech therapy, which is in the same office. The boys and I play cars in the waiting room, and I can’t help but feel mom guilt when I calculate that they spend over four hours a week in a waiting room.
4:05PM Time to go home from ABA and speech. I put a movie on in the car, so the older boys are excited. Poor Austin tiredly cries the whole way home.
4:30PM We’ve made it home and eaten a snack. We head to the toy room and pull out our new Hot Wheels set, along with every other toy on the shelf.
5:30PM Jeremy’s home, and I’m getting both Jackson’s and Cooper’s shoes on so that they can go with him to the gym. They love going to play there.
5:35PM Austin and I get some much-needed alone time to snuggle and play.
6:30PM Everyone’s back, and dinner is served. Once again, Cooper is eating a grilled cheese—he is a very picky eater.
6:50PM Jeremy and Jackson sit at the kitchen table working on handwriting while Cooper, Austin and I play with dinosaur window stickers.
7:10PM I put Austin down to bed so Cooper and I can do our nightly feeding therapy exercises, which includes lots of oral motor tools and activities, such as moving a sucker from one side to the other, having beef broth and apple juice sprayed into his mouth, and lots of biting and chewing of tools. We’re a month into his new program, and he’s already eaten eight new foods, including celery, almonds and turkey.
7:45PM Head upstairs and brush the boys’ teeth. Jackson and I read two books about pirates in his room while Jeremy and Cooper read a book about snakes in Cooper’s room.
10PM After packing lunches, cleaning up the kitchen, picking up the toy room and folding a load of laundry, Jeremy and I watch a little TV, and we head to bed.