Susan Hancock is an autism mom and counselor who works with special-needs families at SpecialNeedsFamily.Life. She and husband Alan, a software engineer, live in Plano with her stepdaughter, Jenn, and their two sons, Randy, 25, and Brian, 18—both of whom are on the autism spectrum. Two German Shepherds and two cats complete the family.
5:30AM I get a cold, wet, nose in the eye—my dog’s way of telling me she needs to go out. Once she’s out, I go back to bed. It’s too dang early.
9AM I stagger to open my bedroom door (did I mention I’m a night owl?) in search of coffee and come face-to-face with Randy—my 6’2” child and “personal stalker.”
Every morning he lurks right outside my bedroom door. He’s just eagerly waiting for his mom because, well, autism. He is so doggone sweet and cheerful, it’s hard to be mad at him. Until the questions begin.
9:20AM Consume more coffee, text the reclusive and seen-only-for-feedings teenager, Brian—a senior in high school who is doing online learning—just to make sure he is alive and doing school stuff. Feed the people something small and easy, feed the pets. Randy is on his 27th question of the day; he is beside himself with joy that he found an unused Target gift card. “Hey, mom. Hey Mom??? Can I set a timer until we can go to Target?”
11AM First counseling client of the day via Zoom—a very goal-oriented executive mom whose 4-year-old was recently diagnosed with autism. We talk about all the uncertainty of the future: the “why me’s,” and the soul-crushing guilt of thinking there was something she might have done to cause her daughter’s autism.
There are tears from both of us. I’ve just learned to hide mine really well. I give her homework: What are your expectations? Where did they come from, and who do they serve? Big stuff.
12:15PM Randy hears me open the door and resumes his stalking duties. Question #72: “Hey, mom? Hey mom. How many hours are left until it’s time to get into the shower? Mom??” It’s also time to some lunch. Whataburger now delivers! Yay!!
1:30PM Plumber arrives. I haven’t had hot water at the kitchen sink for months. A minor inconvenience; the dishwasher still steams and does the dishes. I never got around to calling until I got a text last night from my teenager saying, “Mom, is there any reason why there’s been no hot water for showers for the last couple of months?” Aaughh!
Nobody said a word. I am Mother of the Year. Randy tells the plumber, “It’s okay that the water’s cold. I’m a fast scrubber.”
2:40PM Time to make a McDonald’s run to feed Randy—he doesn’t like Whataburger fries and must have his chicken nuggets. He’s never had a pizza, hot dog or hamburger in his life. Because autism. All us autism moms know that “brown and crunchy” is a thing, and that French fries are a universal food group.
3:30PM Second counseling client of the day. Hubby is Zooming in his office and teenager is Zooming in the game room upstairs, so I’m relegated to using my iPad for my meeting in our bedroom.
I talk with an autism mom who is going through a divorce. She suspects her soon-to-be-ex is also on the spectrum somewhere, and negotiations are breaking down.This kind of work is rewarding most days, but other days are heartbreaking.
5PM Time for some “pupper therapy” for me and to get some ya-ya’s out for the doggos. You would think these German Shepherds are Laborador Retrievers! I throw the ball into the pool about 16 times. It could be 20 degrees below freezing and our dogs will still jump in. Because ball is life.
6:10PM Time to feed the people again. Leftovers from Cowboy Chicken and some reheated supreme pizza for Brian, who grabs his plate and slinks off upstairs with a few grunts of acknowledgment. I feed the dogs, then I’m ready for some quality time with my husband.
8PM Time to watch some TV and unwind. Star Trek: Discovery! Teenager makes a grand production of emptying the dishwasher. Randy adheres to his nightly schedule of going upstairs to play with his Thomas the Tank Engine trains while watching YouTube. Most kids his age are saving up for a car. He, however, is saving up for trains made for 4-year-olds to play with.
It used to be hard to accept, but—like so many things with autism—you learn that there are many more important things to worry about. He has been collecting Thomas trains since he was 4, so we have every Thomas train known to man. It makes him happy.
11PM Hubby fell asleep about an hour ago, so I’m reading articles on communications strategies for married couples and then catching up on Facebook. Brian is foraging through bags of chips and cookies in the pantry. Later I will hear intermittent whoops and hollers from video game battles and cackling from chats with friends on Discord.
1AM I check tomorrow’s schedule, do some last-minute preparation for my first client—a couple whose daughter has an eating disorder. I hope I can help in some way, big or small. Gotta let the dogs out for the last time before bed.
I nudge Alan and whisper “Love you more,” because it’s always a competition to see who says it first after midnight—that way it counts for all day long. It’s the little things that matter most. Time for bed. Peace out.
What she’s reading Fortune and Glory: A Novel (Stephanie Plum novel #27) by Janet Evanovich
Favorite indulgence Any and all things chocolate
First celebrity crush Davey Jones from The Monkees
Restaurant she frequents with her family Chili’s
Go-to recipe Um… Home Chef delivery?
Best purchase ever A Neck Hammock. It’s life-changing!
What she does when life gets stressful A bit of dog therapy with my pups
Motherhood in four words Empty the dang dishwasher
She wishes she had more time to Travel with hubby
Celebrity mom she admires Joanna Gaines
She’s really good at Being patient
She’s really bad at Math
Best advice you’ve been given Don’t sweat the small stuff
Hostess tip Don’t forget the rolls in the oven
Photo courtesy Desiree Chapman Photography.