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Hispanic Mother Encourages Her Kids With Autism to Develop Their Full Potential

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — April 27, 2021 — 4 min read
Little or nothing remains of the shy young Salvadoran who first arrived in the United States 12 years ago. Back then, Jessica didn’t speak English and didn’t suspect the challenges that awaited her. She also didn't know what Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was. Why should she know?

In 2012 Jessica’s story was about to radically change. That year, Jessica learned that she was pregnant with twins. At that moment, a new chapter in Jessica’s life began: motherhood and advocacy for her children’s wellbeing.

A Difficult Birth

Jessica with her sonsJessica's pregnancy developed normally at first. However, at six months she was admitted to the hospital, where she had to face some very harsh news. The doctors told her that both her life and her children were in danger.

With the help of an English-Spanish interpreter, Jessica was able to understand how serious the situation was. The doctors asked her to sign several documents to authorize an emergency cesarean section. She was barely six months pregnant. Also, Jessica had to choose who she wanted the doctors to save: herself or her twin babies. "I decided to save my children because I felt my life without them would no longer make any sense," Jessica said.

The twins were born in critical condition. Mom and babies were fragile. The babies had heart, lung, and developmental problems. “They were very tiny and weighed between 2 and 3 pounds each,” Jessica recalled. “I was also in observation because of stroke and cardiac arrest risk.”

After several weeks in the hospital, Jessica and her babies were finally able to go home. “Having my babies at home was a great joy, but also a huge challenge. I was on my own. It was very difficult not having my family around,” she said.

The Diagnosis: Autism

During her stay in the hospital, Jessica received support from a social worker who provided her with guidance in Spanish. This professional helped her find services for herself and her children. The kids needed a lot of medical help. They received care from heart, lungs, development, vision and hearing specialists, among many others. From the age of three months, Luis and Christian also needed play and language therapy to help with developmental delays due to their premature birth.

The children gradually advanced, but between their first and second year, the doctor noticed that something was wrong. After several tests, Luis received a diagnosis of Autism, and a few months later, Christian did too.

“It was very difficult news. I didn't know anything about Autism, but I knew there was no time to sit and cry. I focused on learning how I could help my children.” That’s when the new Jessica came through: the strong mother, proactive leader, and fierce advocate for the rights of people with Autism, like her children.
Services & resources

The NC Innovations Waiver is a health plan for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) in North Carolina.

Finding More Resources

In 2015, Jessica contacted Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and applied to obtain services such as Respite, (b)(3) Services and Community Guide. With the help of Cardinal Innovations’ bilingual specialists and their providers, Jessica found more resources, including new therapies and community support.

While working with Cardinal Innovations, Jessica was invited to become a member of the Consumer and Family Advisory Committee (CFAC). As part of this committee, Jessica continues advocating for the rights of people with Autism.

Raising the Voice for the Hispanic Community

Jessica is a member of other organizations including: Other places where Jessica has found support include the Autism Society and the TEACCH Autism Program.
Jessica also founded a Facebook group for Latino parents called Power and Hope. Through these groups, Jessica helps combat some of the biggest challenges that Latino families with children with Autism face, which include:
  • The language barrier and lack of information in Spanish
  • Lack of bilingual therapists
  • Frequent changes in care personnel, which interferes with the kids’ progress
  • People who judge children with Autism as “badly behaved” or “badly educated”
  • Racism and discrimination both within and outside of the Latino community

Happy and Healthy Kids

Luis and Christian are now nine years old. They are vibrant children with a desire to be part of the community. They love soccer and being outdoors, and dream of being “YouTubers” when they grow up. With the right support, Jessica knows that Luis and Christian will develop to their potential and lead a healthy and fulfilled life.

To Latino parents who receive a diagnosis of Autism in their family, Jessica recommends:
  • Taking action: ask and contact support groups in the community
  • Being informed: learn about the resources and rights available for your children
  • Keep going and never stop fighting for your children’s wellbeing
To learn more about resources and support for a loved one with Autism or other intellectual and developmental disability, visit our website, also available in Spanish.

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