A Mother’s Love: A local mother shares her story of advocacy and gratitude after her son’s diagnosis of autism.
Read more about Kelly and Devin’s journey.
No one knows a child better than his mother, and when Kelly Perkins’ son Devin was just 15 months old, she says she knew something about him was atypical. While reluctantly following her gut feeling, she began researching autism and started realizing that many of Devin’s behaviors, even at such a young age, seemed indicative of those of a child on the autism spectrum. She shared her concerns with her husband and mother, and reached out to Devin’s pediatrician for guidance. The doctor was dismissive of Kelly’s concerns and was against exploring next steps so early, but with enough persistence, Kelly was able to get the referral she needed to bring Devin to a Developmental Pediatrician.
Kelly recalls that meeting with the Developmental Pediatrician as a moment that changed her life forever.
The doctor said, “I think you know what we’re dealing with here. Your son has autism.”
Kelly says she fell to her knees with excruciating grief from hearing “the A word”, even though she knew exactly what the answer would be when she headed into that room. She felt like everything she had envisioned for her son was halted in that moment, and once she took a moment to process it, she knew it was time to “get to work” and dive deep into learning about raising a son with autism.
As Devin’s biggest advocate, Kelly says at this point, she could practically change her middle name to “research”. She continually explores opportunities to ensure that Devin has the best resources and support available, and she’s grateful that she has been able to channel her energy into empowering her family and others who are struggling through an autism diagnosis. Though she admits that raising a son who does not communicate verbally is incredibly challenging, she’s learning to adapt to Devin’s way of communicating, and she’s encouraged by the bonds he forms with the people around him, especially his grandmother, who is his “best friend.”
“People who have neurotypical children have no idea what it’s like just to navigate a morning routine”, said Kelly. Devin, now 10 years old, attends school at Crossroads in Rotterdam and takes a bus over an hour each way with an assigned aide. When he gets home from school, his grandma then drives him to the after-school program, operated by AIM, in Malta.
“The afterschool program at AIM is amazing. It’s so clean, well run, and all the kids are there having so much fun, laughing and enjoying themselves,” said Kelly. She said it’s so incredibly helpful to have this program so he can be there having fun and engaging with other kids and dedicated staff after school, instead of just being at home. In addition to the exposure Devin gets participating in this program with his peers, Kelly said it is so comforting for her and her husband to know that he is safe and happy while experiencing great opportunities, giving them the opportunity to just “breathe”.
Devin’s connection with AIM began 5 years ago, and Kelly says that in those 5 years, AIM’s programs have helped their family in countless ways. He also participates in AIM’s summer program, at which Kelly says he gets to do “super cool things” that he might not otherwise get to try.
“AIM has been so helpful because I feel like Devin has so much fun and is more adventurous when he’s with the staff and other kids,” said Kelly, admitting that sometimes as a mom, she is little nervous to have him try new things because autism can be unpredictable. But like most kids, neuro-atypical or not, kids tend to behave better for others than they do their own moms. So, she says, she’s grateful that AIM has opened doors to have her explore more fun things that she wants to do with Devin and their family.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts Kelly says that AIM has given her family is Devin’s chance to attend AIM’s annual summer camp. She says she can’t properly express the relief she feels, knowing that Devin gets to experience full days of opportunities and adventures while he is safe and having fun. Because they live in Mechanicville, Kelly said the transportation AIM provides to and from the program is literally “a game changer” for their family and creates a huge help when trying to fill in the gaps that summer break can create for working parents. Knowing there is a program geared toward kids like Devin is something Kelly is forever thankful for. She loves seeing the photos and videos sent to her from the staff, where Devin is clearly expressing his happiness through the smiles and laughter he’s sharing with others. She appreciates that the staff keeps her informed, and she loves hearing about all the moments he’s making with AIM.
“I love that when I show up to pick him up, he’s literally laughing hysterically while he’s in the bounce house with Charlotte, one of the staff. I feel like they really care about him and understand him”, said Kelly.
Kelly says Devin’s birth was a gift that changed everyone. As a family, they have learned how to navigate the challenges of raising a child with autism, and even with its difficulties, it has brought them all closer, learning to communicate in a healthy way with each other and making time for what really matters.
She says that AIM’s programs have opened up a different world for Devin, and because she’s familiar with other services in our area, she feels AIM seems to really go above and beyond for the people they support.
“I have other friends with children with disabilities, and I’m always telling them how amazing AIM is and that they should talk to their care coordinator about looking into AIM’s programs”.
As Devin continues to grow, Kelly said she can’t imagine not having AIM’s programs as an enhancement to their family’s needs. She said she will always be grateful for all AIM has done, and she hopes their story can help inspire others to realize that resources like AIM can make a huge difference for families who are struggling. In addition to the programs Devin attends, Kelly can also access AIM staff for guidance and customized supports.
“I am more grateful than entitled,” said Kelly. “I think some families just assume they deserve help because they have a child with a disability. But in my case, I’m just so grateful that I have the extra support and feel like I have people I can reach out to who really care about Devin.”
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