Autism Moms Interview #6 Katie Moormann

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Katie Moorman and I have been friends for many years.  We first met at Living in Holland when I helped to facilitate this parent support group at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.  When it was time to hand over the reins, so to speak, of coordinating LIH, I knew (maybe even before Katie did) that she was the natural choice to lead.  Now many new families are meeting as part of LIH at Crossroads Church in Norfolk and our little group is stronger than ever!

A talented writer, Katie shares the very real challenges that affect her family as she and her husband raise a child with multiple disabilities.  I know all autism moms (and dads) will appreciate her honesty and insights.  Love you, Katie!- K. Jackson

 Interview with:  Katie Moormann

Coordinator of Living and Holland Ministry at Crossroads Church, 1127 Surrey Crescent, Norfolk, VA 23508

Mom to: Iva “June” Moormann, age 6 1/2

Contributing author for,  Loving Samantha by Karen F. Jackson

http://www.ivajune.blogspot.com

How old was your child when she was first diagnosed with autism?  How did you feel when you received diagnosis?

Katie: June was 18 months when we asked the neurologist for a diagnosis-mainly so we could start getting help and benefits. At that time he diagnosed her with: Intellectual Disability, Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy and (possible) Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Over the years, the diagnosis took shape and form. We started telling people she had Autism and the doctors would just write it on her forms as one of her diagnoses. Last year at the age of 6 we formally had her evaluated by a psychologist and it was confirmed that she had autism. When I told my neurologist he kind of laughed and said, “I already diagnosed her with that”. I felt numb when I received the diagnosis. The grieving process is cyclical and ebbs and flows.

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How has living with autism affected your family?

Katie: Autism has been the hardest diagnosis of all three of June’s diagnoses. It is the thing that affects our family the most and I would say that I DAILY struggle with anger about June’s autism because it cuts into our lives in such drastic ways. I think the hardest part is that our life can’t be “normal”. We can’t just pack up our car on a Saturday afternoon and head to the beach. There is a lot of planning involved, emotional restraint and extra people who come along. Our home is always an “open book” for all to see where we daily have people coming into our house giving us advice, therapy and even though there is respite, it is not respite from being emotionally exhausted and being the “on” mom. I think one of the hardest things that we can’t do is order a pizza and watch a movie and relax on a Friday night. Because somebody always has to follow June around who is either standing directly in front of the TV or in the corner gagging herself or spitting everywhere, or who has turned the oven on, or who has dug in her poopy diaper and eaten it. Or maybe she just wants to climb in the kitchen sink. Yeah, forget the movie. My oldest child has become protector and babysitter at a very young age and my youngest has become a professional whiner because she longs to be the baby but her older sister has snatched her place. My husband and I fight about how to handle June’s autism. That’s a strain. Glorious Saturday mornings come and we can’t go outside and do yard work together while our children bounce around our yard. That’s what we miss.

What is currently your greatest joy as an autism mom?

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Katie: There are moments where I see my daughter in a different light-where she gives me a piece of herself that she hasn’t before. My greatest joy is seeing these things for the first time. When June is sick, all she wants to do is cocoon up into a ball with her zebra-fleece blanket and cuddle. I don’t get that often-even from my neurotypical kids- and I treasure those moments. When she is fascinated by what seems to be the mundane, she slows me down and helps me to see art. She shows me the lights and the colors dancing, music thumping, trees swaying. It doesn’t take much to make her happy. She’s not begging me for the newest toy on the market. She just longs to connect with her world in its most natural state-to feel her bare feet against the earth, to dip her fingers into the lake, to spend hours in the tub, to run a fork under water, to listen to the same song over and over again.

It also gives me great joy to watch other children and adults connect with her. Those children and adults are rare. But when they reach out and touch her, or stoop down to her level and say hi, or swing her around and pick her up, or bounce her on her knee, or talk to her because she is listening, that is truly beautiful.

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Has autism affected your faith? How?

Katie: Yes. Autism has affected my faith. I was never angry at God or shaking my fist at him. But autism has showed me more about God’s image. If He created June in His image, then I am seeing a different part of God that I’ve never seen before. June is pointing me toward the beauty of nature, music and art and I am listening. I also see the body of Christ standing around June and our family to uphold and support us. We couldn’t do it well alone. I have also seen my husband in a different light. He is the most patient person I know when it comes to June. And the way he loves her reminds me of the way God loves me. Unconditionally and fully, deeply.