Lisa Maloney says: “Our life is severely impacted by autism. Every part of our life–mine, my husband’s and our typical kids’–is geared to run around what the boys need.”
Despite the negative encounters stealing the spotlight, the Maloneys appreciate all the people showing exceptional kindness and patience to their sons such as the Giant Eagle workers who permitted Patrick to buy food from pictographs on his tablet, or the ladies who cut the boys’ hair near their home at a Great Clips.
As a result of a lot of self-sacrifice, Adams says: “I think I’m a lot nicer to people and I’m more understanding. I’m also a lot more aware of other people than some are. Even with my sister, she won’t have to say anything and I’ll understand how she is feeling based on her body language.”
Lisa says: “My kids, by contrast, have learned not to underestimate or avoid or be prejudiced against people who are different than them. That’s why they’re nicer. Adam also has created his own space by joining track and soccer teams in school, which allows him to decompress from pressures at home.”
Lisa says her family life has transformed how she sees other problems. She confesses: “I don’t feel like I get as crazy angry with people, because you don’t know what they’re going through. If someone cuts me off in traffic, that’s OK, because maybe that person has to get home because their son is having a seizure–you don’t know.”
Contemplating the future. One major reason why the Maloneys consented to open up is that they realize they are in the first big wave of parents whose autistic children will be entering adulthood. Lisa is uncertain about group living, not merely because of concerns regarding quality of available programs, but also because of her desire to keep Patrick and Jeffrey happy and safe. She writes: “One day I’m thinking I’ll never put them anywhere, they’re going to be with me until the day I die, and then another day, I’ll think ‘Oh, this is not fair to them or me or anyone, and we’re going to start a plan about where to put them.”
She goes on to say: “People in my family comment all the time, ‘Oh, you just handle it all so well.’ And we do trudge through it, but I don’t go into my office and say I’ve been scrubbing poop for four hours.”
She adds: “No one would ever say to me, ‘I wish I could wake up in your life. But I think a lot of people would like the relationships we have in our family unit–and it is because of the boys.”