Valley Life for All column: Meet Maureen and Zac
Special to The Aspen Times
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities. Twenty-seven percent of Americans experience some disability. One hundred percent are a part of our community. Each has a story.
Meet Maureen and Zac: They are a mother and son who are sharing the journey of autism. Maureen is mother to four adopted children, a teacher and a counselor and her Zacy’s biggest advocate and fan. Zac is a hard worker and a force for positivity and enthusiasm in his quiet, unassuming way.
In Maureen’s words: All my children were adopted. We were fortunate enough to be present at Zac’s birth, which was certainly a privilege. When we got him home, he was a very, very quiet baby. It was very different than the older two children.
Immediately, I started to wonder what was going on. My cousin said something similar was happening to her friend’s child who was diagnosed with autism. I started reading and learning everything I could. We were really fortunate to find an expert who diagnosed Zac with pervasive developmental disabilities, not otherwise specified with autistic-like behaviors.
He started doing regular physical and occupational therapy, and a certain amount of cognitive and speech therapy. This early intervention was critical for his optimum development.
I had been teaching part time, and I had a part-time counseling practice. Zac’s dad and I made the decision that I would be the one available to pick him up and take him to therapies. So I gave up my practice and just taught at night. Zac never was able to stay in school for the whole day until he was a junior in high school.
I have raised Zac as a single parent since he was 15. I learned that when a child has significant disabilities, there are a huge percentage of families that break up and that it is usually the mom who stays.
I have to say the journey has been difficult, but I never thought of any other option than to do it. And I think that’s important. I hung on, and that took a lot of hard work. But Zac is worth it.
I must say that my overriding emotion and impression of the whole journey so far is great love and admiration for Zac. Not only is he my responsibility, but he’s my favorite human.
Zac’s siblings and especially his younger sister were important in his life, and by high school, Zac had many friends who always had his back.
Valley Life for All has been a real gift to us. It has given Zac and me the hope that there are people and services with which we can connect to help enhance his life in the community as an adult with some differences.
Our community benefits from having Zac as a citizen. He is a hard worker and a force for positivity and enthusiasm in his quiet, unassuming way. Zac seems to bring out the best in people. He could become one of your favorite humans, too.
Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.
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Aspen police discovered Alan Roberts body at about 10:30 a.m. Monday near a bike path in Aspen. The death is currently being investigated by the Pitkin County Coroner.