We Will Never Be Empty Nesters... And That's Okay

We Will Never Be Empty Nesters… And That’s Okay

On September 27, 2008, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl we named Madison Eladia Jones.

Like many new families, we thought we knew how parenthood would go, diapers and sleepless nights would lean into school age, teen years, school graduations and college, and all the ups and downs we read and saw in our families. Eventually, we would have to say goodbye as she would make her own life and family.

Very early on Madison met some of her milestones but there were sensory issues present. She could not ride in a car without melting down when we stopped for a red light. She was sensitive to sounds and we would whisper the Happy Birthday song and all the while her doctor kept saying that because she was an only child she just needed more exposure.

One day we were in a store and she flapped her hands and right then I googled ‘Signs of Autism’. Fast forward to a few weeks later, we took her to a new doctor and explained all that was going on and Madison went through a battery of tests and assessments only to confirm what we already knew, she was on the Autism Spectrum.

The woman who came to my home to deliver the news was not exceptionally kind and said that Madison would most likely live in her own world, may not speak but that early intervention was key towards any possible progress. We were devastated and felt so much fear for her and her future.

I’m going to keep it very real here… 

There is no GUIDE to follow, there is a lot of information, and frankly, it’s so confusing you don’t even know where to begin. Madison went to a special needs preschool and that is when we realized how vast the spectrum is and how underfunded these schools are.

After pre-school Madison went to a public school and there were teachers that were wonderful, but a public school is not a place for all special needs children and definitely not mine. I attended a meeting with two men who tried to bully me into putting her into a school that was for special needs kids but geared towards children with behavior-related issues rather than learning disabilities and I had to fight back. I remember that being the first time I realized that I would have to advocate and fight for my daughter if she was ever to have a chance to actually learn.

One of the most well-known Autism Advocates in the plus-size industry is Christina Mendez.

She was a model and mom to a son on the Autism Spectrum and after reaching out to her our lives changed. She did not hold any information back, she helped and even drove us to the school that would be essential for Madison’s development.

Madison’s Junior Highschool graduation

This is the short version of our story…

Today Madison is 15 years old, she’s verbal, she’s in the high school program at her school and she is part of her school choir, she travels with us and has been part of numerous fashion campaigns and living a life I never thought possible for her because we did not give up. People were willing to help and share their information with us, and because through Autism Awareness, more programs and schools for Special Needs kids are thriving.

We both spoke at a fundraiser for Madison's school

We both spoke at a fundraiser for Madison’s school

I’ve wanted to tell our story for a long time and under my own personal social media channels I do.

I’ve hesitated to tell it via PLUS Model Magazine for years but as the industry has grown I’ve also seen many within our own community share about their special needs children and I felt it was the right time for us to share not only our story but others as well. My intent is not for pity but for people to understand that not all families and children are the same and that special needs families can thrive when we are greeted with grace and not with negativity.

One day last year my husband and I realized that we would never be empty nesters, and that is okay. Every moment with our daughter brings us joy and we get to experience life through her lens which is full of optimism for the future.

This month I will be sharing specific details about schools, programs, and stories from people within our industry who just like me are figuring things out as best we can because we just want what is best for our children.

I hope that you will join us in celebrating Autism Awareness Month and share kindness everywhere you go.

Websites you may find helpful if you are searching for assistance or information: