Denise Auzenne said she always knew there was something different with her son, Jackson.
"He was two when he went to the neurologist in Lafayette and over the course of two years we went back and forth," Auzenne said. "We knew that something was different. We were in speech at the time and were getting a push from the insurance that we needed a diagnosis. We knew, without that, we couldn't move on with our lives."
Countless doctor appointments and testing would only confirm what Auzenne said she already knew--Jackson had autism.
But, she said, she had to get that diagnosis. It was the only way that she could continue to get him the help he needed.
"Autism is very expensive," Auzenne said. "As a parent, the thousands of dollars that we've spent, going to different doctors and trying to get a diagnosis and insurance not paying for most of it really had an impact on our lives."
Now a happy 13-year-old, Auzenne has another worry with her son.
"Being a male with autism with limited resources and modifications made in society," Auzenne started. "The standard is for him to be in society and function normally, but there is rarely a chance for that. I worry about his day-to-day life and where I see him ten years from now."
Auzenne said she just wants for Jackson to have the same opportunities as any other child; even if those may look a little different.
"A person with autism only wants what everybody else in this life wants," Auzenne said. "They want a friend, they want a ride, a job, a place to live, and a feeling of independence. That's what I want for him. It's my goal and I'll keep working on that for him."
It is also something 23-year-old Tiffany Richard wants for life.
She said, since she was nine, she found ways to hide the quirks that make her unique.
"Some of us have to mask ourselves and not show off our quirks," Richard said.
"Is that hard?" I asked.
"It's difficult. But you have to sometimes do that in the world....maneuver new things."
It is not always easy navigating through a world that expects you to act one way.
"You're in a world that is made for people that aren't you," Richard said.
Tiffany was 9 when she was diagnosed with autism, and 14 when her parents told her about the diagnosis.
"When I found out at 14 it was like a big plot twist," Richard said. "Like, wait, this is something. Everything made sense with life. This makes sense as to why I don't really look at people or do other things."
While Richard has come a long way from being that little 9-year-old girl who did not quite understand her slight differences; she still struggles.
"When you say 85 percent of people with autism are unemployed, why do you think that is?" I asked Richard.
"I think it's because employers don't understand us," Richard said. "We have our set of difficulties, but that doesn't mean we're a bad worker. Ours may be more unique like with communication but we're hard workers, good at being detailed oriented, getting the job done, and following the rules and such."
Despite that, Richard said she is better than ever.
She is doing all of the things a 23-year-old should be doing, giving herself goals, and working hard to prove that she can do anything that anyone else can do.
Apr 21 – Lafayette Asperger’s Support Group Bowling Night – Surge Entertainment Center, 2723 Pinhook Rd, Lafayette
Apr 22 – Iberia Parish Support Group Meeting – 6:30p – Landry’s Cajun Seafood & Steaks, 3704 Jefferson Island Hwy., New Iberia
Apr 23 – Just 4 Moms Female Caregiver Support Group – 6:30p – Location TBD
Apr 24 – Teen STARS (Siblings Talking About Real Stuff) – 2:00p – Autism Society Acadiana, 3108 Pinhook Rd., Lafayette
Apr 28 – Lafayette Asperger’s Support Group Support Meeting – 6:00-8:00p -- Autism Society Acadiana, 3108 Pinhook Rd., Lafayette
Apr 29 – MAT (Managing Asperger’s Together) – 6:00p-8:00p – LSU-E LeDoux Library, 2048 Johnson Hwy., Eunice
May 4 – Lafayette Parish Support Group – 6:30p – Deano’s Pizza, 305 Bertrand Dr., Lafayette
May 6 – SOLA Giving Day -- www.solagivingday.org