Eli, left, Brent, Lindsay and Ava Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wilson)

Eli, left, Brent, Lindsay and Ava Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wilson)

West Shore families share experience in raising a child with autism

Two families reveal some parallels, but circumstances are different for everyone

For each family who has a child with autism, life’s challenges present differently.

Two West Shore families have revealed there is not a ‘one size fits all’ route when it comes to raising a child with autism, and although there are parallel experiences, circumstances vary greatly for everyone.

Lindsay and Brent Wilson have been fortunate on their journey of finding resources and support for their six-year-old son, Eli, who is non-verbal.

A child with autism must first have a diagnosis before the family can receive financial support from the government, and this can take up to a year to get unless the family chooses to pay out-of-pocket and get a private assessment. Eli was diagnosed around the age of three.

“We were lucky, we knew he would be diagnosed before he was assessed, so we had already prepared and selected a team before he had the assessment done,” said Lindsay, noting they went the private route and hired someone to come and asses Eli, which took about a month. Within a week after the diagnosis, Eli began receiving therapies.

Now that Eli is in school, he has an education assistant with him at all times and receives speech therapy, along with at-home therapies and visits from support workers.

READ ALSO: Hope woman has close encounter with bobcat

Brittany Standing and her partner, Corey Champagne, have had a more challenging experience finding and connecting to resources. The family moved from Alberta to Langford with their two daughters Brielle and Chloe about four years ago.

“We have not had good luck. It feels like when you have a child with special needs, you’re just a number and you’re left out to drown,” said Standing, who just got Chloe’s autism diagnosis in the past month. “Everything takes a lot of time. It is hard to find a doctor here that will give you the time of day. We are just slowly starting to get her support system built up, but it’s taken almost four years.”

Chloe, 4, is non-verbal and delayed in development, so Standing said she and her partner have had to carry their daughter everywhere. Both families noted there are a variety of other medical conditions that can come along with autism, such as epilepsy, digestive issues, disrupted sleep and so forth, but everyone will be affected differently.

“Chloe is very delayed, so although she is four, she is more like a one-year-old. When she was younger we were brushed off and told nothing was wrong, but she was not progressing,” said Standing. “She was having seizures at night, and when we finally got her referred, they found she is epileptic, but it was all missed. She then got medication and things started improving.”

Standing said she wished the process of getting an autism diagnosis could have happened more quickly, and that supports were more accessible. She is looking forward to when Chloe begins school in September, and can access resources through the school district.

“Now that we have the diagnosis and funding coming, she can receive therapies four times a week, rather than once a week, and will have an EA (educational assistant) in school. Just a lot more support is coming, so that is really exciting for us,” said Standing.

Though the two families have had vastly different experiences with respect to finding support, there are also some similarities in experience. Both families say raising a child with autism has made their family stronger, and they have all become more compassionate, understanding, and loving people because of it.

Standing added that Chloe has been a great teacher for her family, and she wouldn’t want things any other way.

“Chloe is a blessing, she brings so much joy and happiness, and my other daughter is the most amazing big sister,” said Standing. “It has been physically and mentally difficult, but has changed our family for the better overall.”

Lindsay said Eli has a twin sister, Ava, who is neuro-typical, and can understand her brother better than anyone. The family is glad the two siblings have each other to lean on.

“Ava and Eli will often play in the presence of each other, but do their own things. Eli seeks out Ava, he likes to be close to her, and she is always watching where Eli is to make sure he’s OK. Eli gets joy out of interacting with Ava. She cracks him up, she’s funny and goofy as heck, you can see the engagement on his face, and the fun he has when they play,” said Brent Wilson.

READ ALSO: Sooke’s historic Woodside Farm sold to local couple

Both families also highlighted their child’s deep connection to nature. Standing said Chloe has always been infatuated with trees.

“She will go up and hug every tree as if it were a human, as if she can feel energy from it,” said Standing with a laugh.

“For about a year of her life, I would have to take her outside to feel the trees all throughout the day. We would have to close the blinds, because she would cry until she could be near the trees. When my husband would come home from work, he would take her out to touch the trees again.”

The Wilson family emphasized Eli’s love for playing outside as well. He particularly enjoys going for walks through parks, swimming and going for drives.

“He loves anything in motion, the feeling of wind, or the sound of moving water,” said Lindsay.

“We will take the kids to Goldstream Park or to the beach, and Eli will stand there with his eyes closed listening to the water.”

The families both said a major challenge is not always knowing what their child is trying to communicate, such as when they are sick or hurt. And both of their biggest concerns were for the future of their child, hoping to ensure that they receive enough support throughout their lives.

“We have learned early on in the process that we are playing the long game. It’s a slow, steady journey that requires patience, consistency and perseverance. We want to ensure Eli has all the tools and resources to make consistent progress, and that he can enjoy his experience,” said Brent Wilson.

“Autistic children become adults, so we would also love to see more inclusion overall in the world. We would like to know he has the same opportunities to education and employment as others do. Everyone wants meaning and to contribute to society, it’s just a matter of finding a place where you fit.”

To read more about National Autism Awareness Month, go to goldstreamgazette.com/tag/autism-awareness-month.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Autism Awareness Month

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay Police Department briefs for May 3 to 9. (Black Press Media file photo)
Copper wire stolen after Oak Bay construction site targeted twice by thieves

Cop briefs include pair of impounded cars, swiped back medication

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

Colwood council voted to give businesses less of a cut than planned and will look for more cuts this week. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood council gets back to work after voting against 9.3% property tax hike

Emergency meetings this week will find more cuts, finalize tax plan by Friday deadline

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read