by Melissa LaScaleia
Rebecca Jeffreys has lived in many locales across the U.S., including Pepperell, Massachusetts where she and her husband raised their son.
“We could always tell that he was different,” she says, “but as he was an only child, we really didn’t have any benchmark for comparison. Over the years, we treated a number of symptoms like anxiety, inability to thrive, awkward social skills, and an unusual perception of the world.”
It wasn’t until her son went to public school in junior high that the special education team noticed something was amiss and stepped up to help.
“They were really supportive and able to help him with his struggles and it was great,” Rebecca says. “Then he went to a different school in 9th grade, where the special ed team wasn’t great, and everything went downhill rapidly. He was emotionally a wreck, and he was very depressed and his grades were terrible. This moment was the hardest parenting moment of my life in terms of dealing with other adults, protecting my child, and getting his needs met. It was an emotional rollercoaster and we felt powerless, and I didn’t have tools to help me through it. I could lean on friends, but I needed so much more. And that time was the inspiration for me wanting to write a book to help other moms get through these tough times as well.”
Once her son was placed in therapeutic school, everything turned around for the better once more, but after he graduated from high school, it was again difficult for Rebecca and her husband to guide him, as there was no more structure.
Their son wasn’t officially diagnosed with autism until he was 20 years old. Two years later, in April 2021, Rebecca and her husband took early retirement and moved to Myrtle Beach.
“We had come previously on a vacation, and had been looking for years for a beach home. We landed in such an autism friendly town and we didn’t even know it until after we moved. We simply felt that it was peaceful here, and people were accepting and laid-back, and it would be a wonderful place for us to continue to support our son in the next chapter of his life.”
Rebecca wrote the book, You Were Made For This: Finding Courage and Intuition for Raising a Child with Autism during Covid.
“I wrote it as a tool for mothers in a similar position to me to quickly reference and feel supported on their journey— to feel that they’re not alone,” she says. “It has self care tips, and a glossary of words they’ll encounter with the specialists they’re working with. Additionally there’s a guide on how to select a therapeutic school.”
Their son now lives with them indefinitely.
“Now that we’re settled, we’re getting him a job coach,” Rebecca says. “Little by little, he’s easing into the community. But there’s no rush. We keep the stress down but make the process feel successful.”