A Single Mother’s Story of Raising a Child with Autism

Christine Corrigan, ER Nurse and single mother has faced many challenges raising 6-year-old daughter Alanna, and 14-year-old son Conor who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Corrigan’s son Conor was diagnosed with low functioning autism when he was three years old, which had changed Corrigan’s life forever.

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(From left to right) Christine Corrigan, daughter Alanna, and son Conor enjoying the board game Candy Land on game night. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“I thought my life was going one way and then it took a curve ball the other way,” said Corrigan. “The impact from this was how am I going to let this affect my life. I am either going to take it positively or try to make it the best for him or be negative about everything. Which at one point, I think you are because the initial response is you’re upset and angry, wondering if it’s my fault and why this is happening. But, the other part of all of this is how do I make this better and will my kid be the one who’s cured or will my kid be the one who goes to a group home.”

Autism has had a rocky and complicated history since its discovery in the early 1900’s. The condition was first associated with symptoms of schizophrenia. It wasn’t until the 1960’s autism began to be associated with children who had various learning and behavioral disabilities that was considered entirely separate from schizophrenia. Little was known about autism up to a decade ago when Corrigan started conducting research on the condition.

“As nurse and health professional, I had heard of what autism was and knew one or two people with it but I didn’t really have any background to it at all. So it was kind of new for me,” said Corrigan. “I didn’t have a computer at the time because things weren’t like the way they are now, so I took out one of my old nursing text books and there under psychiatric disorders was autism and I didn’t really know what to make of it. There were only two paragraphs and that was it.”

Since Conor’s diagnoses, Corrigan has set out to find help and support systems in order to gain a better understanding of autism and to find the best course of treatment to combat the condition.

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(From left to right) In-home aid Nick joining in on game night with Christine, Alanna, and Conor. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“There’s resources out there. There is so much out there and the state doesn’t want to tell you about it, the school districts don’t know much about it and you really have to do a lot of research on your own,” said Corrigan. “I get services for Conor through the state that has taken me a long time to get, but I was diligent with the paperwork and now that I‘ve gotten it it’s been life changing.”

Single parenting comes with its many trials and tribulations, especially when raising a child with autism. As for many parents of teenagers they deal with what comes with every teenage growth and developmental stage, one being puberty. For Corrigan, this has been one of the toughest challenges but through the services, Conor has been able to be a normal teenage boy.

“He can be a teenager who goes out in the community and does things and like any teenager he does not want to be with mom and 6-year-old sister all the time. They don’t whether they’re autistic or not,” said Corrigan. “With the aids that come in, they are in their 20’s and they are more of a peer model than they are mom. Conor can have a friendship-like relationship and it’s so wonderful.”

Through modern medicine and research, many techniques, treatments, and therapies exist now that did not once before. They can help relieve the suffering of autism, offer a better quality of life, and bring a brighter future.

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Conor having fun playing the board game Candy Land with family and in-home aid Nick. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

Corrigan went on to give advice to other parents who are going through similar situations.

“Research. Research everything that is out there and there is so much out there. Best thing you can do is be educated. Read books, google it, go to self-help groups, go to parent-to-parent groups, find out everything,” said Corrigan. “You’re going to find out who your friends are. You will lose some because it’s not for everybody, but you are going to gain some of the best support systems through this experience.”
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