Hello! My name is Jessica Ann Kong and I am a special needs mom and sibling. I am married to my best friend, Harry, and I have two beautiful boys – Dominic 11 and Brayden 7, who is Autistic.
As a family, we are adventure seekers with a great love for God and animals. Advocating for children has been a passion of mine since I was a child and I am currently a Special Needs IEP Coach living in the gorgeous state of Alaska. I will be working on becoming an RBT (Registered Behaviour Technician) in the Fall.
Natalie: What are some words to describe Brayden What do you love about him?
Jessica: Oh my! Brayden is a little crazy but a whole lot of fun. He is the most affectionate little boy and he just loves to please people. He is dramatic, funny and epically inspirational. Once you’ve met him, you will never forget him.
I absolutely love that although Brayden understands there are things that make him unique, that he never lets it get in his way. He often chants “Nothing is impossible with my family” as he is conquering a difficult activity. He most certainly dances to the beat of his own drum, but he always invites you to dance along with him.
Natalie: How did your journey begin with Brayden, what was going on through your mind and heart during this time)?
Jessica: Since the day Brayden was born I have always known that there was something special about him. I did not start my journey into evaluations to get names for those unique characteristics until he was about age two, when I was in the middle of a difficult divorce from an abusive man. I will be completely honest, I was a mess emotionally and mentally. There were so many tests and so many diagnoses being thrown at me.
Developmentally delayed, ADHD and potentially autism. He needed a high prescription for glasses and they were unsure if he had hearing problems. Even through all of this I didn’t care what they said was “wrong” with my son because I knew that he was created especially for me to love and care for. I just wanted to make sure I was giving him the things he needed to be the very best version of himself.
Natalie: What is the name of the condition that Brayden has? Can you share with us a little more about it?
Jessica: Brayden has been officially diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, also known as Aspergers Syndrome. Autism is what I consider and umbrella diagnosis. Yes, he is Autistic, but this diagnosis is different for every child diagnosed as Autistic.
Specifically, for Brayden this includes ADHD, speech, developmentally and fine motor skills delays, difficulty dealing with emotions and senses and a few other things. He medically needs glasses to see and he could not speak properly for a long time. He still struggles with a stutter and using his tongue correctly when speaking. It is also a misconception that children with Autism aren’t affectionate because Brayden is extremely affectionate and will give you more hugs and kisses than you ever thought you needed. All these unique characteristics just add to his charm.
Natalie: What are your worries and wishes for Brayden?
Jessica: I do not worry for Brayden from the perspective that he will not have a great life due to Autism. He is too brilliant and has too much to offer this world for that to concern me. However, I do worry that the world will try to limit Brayden and exclude him from things due a lack of acceptance. We have never tried to conform Brayden to the standards of the world and we do not medicate, instead we help him learn coping strategies and other safe ways to deal with the difficult aspects of his diagnosis.
As I stated, Brayden dances to the beat of him own drum and he will excitedly invite you to join him, but what about those that feel his dancing is too unconventional or appropriate? My greatest wish is that the world allows Brayden to be himself and embraces him for all the good he has to offer. I truly believe that he, and many other special needs children, will become world changers.
Natalie: I’m passionate about the special needs and self care connection. Raising a child with a diagnosis can bring some big challenges, how do you cope through the tough days? Are there any self care practices that helped you on your journey?
Jessica: I LOVE to run and be outside. We are also a Catholic family, so I do pray the rosary often and offer up my big challenges to God. A nice cup of hot tea (*or maybe a glass of wine!) and a bath always makes me feel better too. I try to practice self-care every day! It is so important for you and your family that you have that time to heal and rejuvenate. In other words, you can’t pour from an empty cup and as a special needs parent we do more pouring than most.
Natalie: What advice would you give a mum who is beginning her journey after receiving her child’s diagnosis?
Jessica: Just Breathe. This diagnosis will not change the amazing individual your child is and will become. This diagnosis will help give you the tools to help cultivate the best conditions for your child and family to grow individually and together. It is also okay to be afraid, confused and any other emotion that you are feeling. You can handle this. You need to embrace love and acceptance and reach out to other special need parents. We are all waiting to embrace you and love your child and your journey.
Natalie: Siblings can be such a wonderful source of inspiration, what have been some special moments between Brayden and Dominic?
Jessica: These questions are the ones that really pull at my heart strings. *cue the tears*
Dominic is truly the rock that Brayden leans on every day. Dominic stands up for Brayden and reassures him that he is doing right. He includes him and truly takes him under his wing.
Right now, both of my beautiful boys are in the Scouts and Dominic is always ready to help Brayden reach his next achievement. Dominic loves to read to Brayden, they play Pokémon and ride their scooters together. Every night Brayden asks Dominic to sleep with him and Dominic always does. Their relationship has such a pure love that the beauty of it is too difficult to describe in words but will forever bring this proud mommy to tears.
Natalie: What are some lessons and blessings you have learnt since becoming their mum? How has it changed you as a person?
Jessica: Becoming a mother is always a learning experience, regardless of how many children you have because they are all so different. I have learned to think outside the box and have gained some interesting perspectives of the world since I was blessed with Brayden as a son. I never realized how much fun it is to make funny faces or smell your surroundings. He has shown me how important the little things truly are.
Overall, I think I have become more compassionate and easy going. Life is just more fun, and I am ecstatic to wake up and experience it every day because it has become an adventure and journey, not a destination. I am no longer bound by the rules of society and what it deems acceptable or normal because seriously, who really wants to be normal? Not me or my family!
Natalie: Outside your motherhood role, what lights you up, what are your passions?
Jessica: Music! Singing, writing, dancing, nature. Food, laughter, books, trashy tele, silence, sitting in my car and reflecting, connection with others, working with families and children.
Natalie: Do you have a favorite quote, prayer, or piece of miracle inspiration that you would like to leave us with?
Jessica: Inspirational quotes are my absolute favorite! There are so many to choose so I will share just a few:
“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be and that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be. – Joan Ryan”
There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1
As a final thought, remember to embrace life and all that comes with it. You only have one life to live, so really live it.
Thank you so much Jessica for sharing your incredible journey with us.
If you would like to share your miracle moments and special needs journey, please get in touch here.
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