Empowering Others One Mind at a Time in Honor of Autism Awareness Month
A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a public notice to spark the interests of any writers who wanted to Join Our Team to become A NEW ME Blog Contributor based on our categories of focus. I received a message on LinkedIn from this beautiful lady. She shared with me her story and desire to be part of our Mission. I was immediately touched by her story! I am so honored she would want to share her joys and struggles transparently on A NEW ME platform. Here's why she's joining our team:
"I know that my story is not unique but I want others to know that if a young Latina from Pasadena, Texas can do it against all the odds so can they. Life is about making choices and we do not have to be victims, we can all be survivors. My passion is being a bridge leader and connecting with "ALL" people." -Elvia Espino
I want to welcome the beautiful Elvia Espino as our A NEW ME Blog Contributor. Here's a little bit about Elvia before she shares her powerful blog to bring awareness for April's Autism Awareness Month:
When Elvia steps into a room, enthusiasm enters with her professional presence and your attention is quickly commanded. Her determination is fueled with her passion and can be felt when she speaks. She has a larger than life personality and definitely fits the phrase “Super Woman.” Espino’s appetite for success and determination came from being labeled "at risk" by a school system and growing up to a single mother. Since then, she has worked tirelessly professionally and personally to diminish the “us and “them” mentality within education. Determined not be a product of her environment she set her sights on not only having a dream but living the dream.
A mother to a special needs child, she advocates tirelessly for equitable opportunities for people with special needs. As the first person in her family to graduate college, Espino is passionate about speaking to students and her community to empower them to achieve their educational goals.
Currently Espino is completing her doctoral degree in Organizational Change and Leadership.
Growing up to a single mom in Houston’s Northside (fifth ward) and being fortunate enough to get a second chance by moving to a suburb right outside Houston, called Pasadena, I thought if I made it and learned what not to do, I would be everything I did not have growing up. In my family pregnancies were never a happy or joyous occasion, they were more like, “Oops, not again!” As if getting pregnant just happens! It doesn’t. And if you are as wise as my mother who had “five” daughters, she will tell you there is no such thing as “unplanned.”
I didn’t have many role models growing up. I just knew that I wanted different for me and my future. While several of my relatives were dropping out of high school, doing drugs, and becoming unwed teenaged mothers, I knew that I was determined not to be a victim of my environment. I have learned not to blame my mother and forgive her for everything, as she was doing the very best with what she had been given. I also had to learn by the time my mother had become my mother she was already a broken spirit.
My dad, while I love him dearly was emotionally and physically abusive to my mom. And while he left my mother alone to raise four girls (at the time), he also left us to start another family even though he wasn’t done with the one he started. I have since through much help, prayer, therapy, guidance, and mentorship learned that children would much rather come from a divorced home than live in a broken one.
So, in my mind I thought as long as I do everything differently than what I saw growing up I will make it. I will be better than I had. I thought if God blesses me with the desires of my heart and he allows all my dreams to come true then I will really have it going on. This is what I thought. To some degree I was naïve and perhaps a little selfish.
I was always seeking better so much so, my sisters always questioned my desire to always want more, as if having dreams was a bad thing. I am not necessarily speaking of material things, I am speaking of opportunities, access, and resources. As the first person in my family to graduate college I've learned the people that are supposed to love and encourage you the most, are often the first ones in line trying to tear you down. I have had to seek forgiveness on their behalf because I simply would like to think if they knew better they would do better.
I eventually got married and had all the things I thought were part of the dream: the big house, career, nice car, and the accolades. I was ready to start my journey into motherhood. I had been married for seven years and was finally “ready.” While I know there is no such thing as ever being ready, I was now done with my own planning and was finally in a position to allow God to have his way with his own plan for my life. But was I really ready for his plan?
I had a Hollywood pregnancy, did all the things right, no morning sickness, read all the books, worked until my due date, and then my prince was born. He was perfect! He was pale light beige with dark grey moon eyes, and just enough black hair to look like a business man in the making. I was now ready to give him everything I did not have which was a peaceful home, two parents under the same roof, access to opportunities, and a mother he could be proud to call mom.
Almost two years into motherhood I knew my prince was different. He was not waving goodbye, rarely babbling or mimicking others and was too active for his own safety. After many interventions, therapists, doctor referrals with top specialists, MRI’s, and more- at the age of five and half we were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was numb when I heard the news, I must admit I was ready for it but surprised this was going to be my reality. I had done everything my teenage cousins had not, yet their kids could speak. I felt like I had failed him somehow. I even felt like this was God’s way of waking me up somehow and humbling me to the reality that while we have our own plans He has His and this is the only one that really matters.
Today, I thank God for choosing me to be Alex-the-Great’s Mom. I think back now and remember researching his name before he was born and now can look back and smile that I named him after a warrior, not knowing he would be one. Today we fight tirelessly to change and empower minds about the world of autism. I am a mother on a mission and thank God every day for his mercy on my life and I have no doubt that back then as I was that little girl struggling to make it against all odds, that was my boot camp for our autism battle. God was preparing me way back then even as a child that would often fight and get in trouble in a school system that labeled me “At Risk.”
I am grateful for every scar, wound, stereotype, and everyone that said I could not because today I can and am doing so and won’t stop or be calm until enough autism awareness is created not just for my son but for everyone else’s child.
Our children are not disabled they are "differently-abled," and if your child does not have autism take a moment to teach them to love and accept someone else’s child with autism.
Elvia's Contact Info:
Alex the Great Autism Ambassador's FB Page:
Get ready to embrace “A NEW ME: Transparently, Abundantly.”
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