Author Rebecca Jeffreys shares her journey as a mom of a child with autism through her new book to help fellow mothers like her
Rebecca Jeffreys has done what any mom would do when raising her son: love and support her child through all of life’s challenges.
She’s even gone a step further to help support other moms of children with autism by authoring a book, “You Were Made for This: Finding Courage and Intuition for Raising a Child with Autism.”
“The book happened during COVID,” says Jeffreys. “I am a classically trained flutist and that’s what I had done for my whole life. But when COVID came, I was out of work and it actually hit at a great time because I was ready to change.
“Being a classical musician is a very self-centered industry,” she continues. “It’s all about keeping your product in tip-top shape all the time, so lots of practice marketing yourself, keeping up your image, trying to go with all the changes of the digital delivery of music… It’s a lot to take. I’m in my fifties and I didn’t want to deal with that anymore. The ability to enjoy my art was gone. It had just been destroyed.”
Change can be good, as the saying goes, and it was for Jeffreys, who took the time of her exit from music to self-reflect. She decided to take the advice from a life coach and write this book about her son, JJ, now 23.
“The timing was perfect because JJ was an adult at this point and I could ask him what he was comfortable with me talking about because I wanted to respect his privacy and not just spread his life history everywhere,” she says. “So, I had his input on the book and it was really kind of cathartic for me to show me what we’d been through and that now I was at a point where I could help other moms get through their own process because we’d been through it from kindergarten all the way through community college by that point and faced a lot of challenges.”
JJ showed signs of autism when he was much younger, but didn’t get an official diagnosis until he was 20 years old. Over the years, he struggled with anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, food allergies and more while growing up in Massachusetts. The first chapter of the book, she says, discusses one of the hardest moments she remembers when being called into JJ’s school.
“They were afraid of him, and I could see how his behavior would be terrifying,” she says. “He would hug people just spontaneously; he would go crashing into them. As far as I knew, this kid was just a pain in the butt! He’s very attention-seeking. We didn’t really know what was going on either, and the other parents started reporting him to school administration, about having concerns about this child. … That was one of the hardest moments in trying to raise a child with autism: We had all the symptoms, but we didn’t have the diagnosis.”
The Jeffreys finally settled JJ into a school program in 7th grade, trying a wide range of therapies along the way, including horseback riding, occupational therapy, medicines and more. It was then that Rebecca realized that, while she poured all of her attention into JJ’s health, her own emotional health was sidelined. She founded a group called Sprouting Healthy Families, a way to help parents of autistic children take care of their own emotional well-being through blogs and podcasts.
Flash-forward to right before the pandemic, when Jeffreys and her husband, who was about to retire, vacationed here in Myrtle Beach to scout out a beach town they could relocate to.
“Once we saw The Market Common, we knew this was everything we’d been looking for in the village setting and the walkability, so we told our son, this was the place, but he didn’t want to move,” she says.
But that changed when Jeffreys began noticing the Champion Autism Network (CAN) stickers around town and found out how supportive the organization is for families with autism by creating awareness, training local restaurants and businesses to be autism-friendly, hosting sensory-friendly events, and more. Jeffreys quickly became involved on the CAN board since moving here in March 2021.
“It’s just been absolutely spectacular here,” says Jeffreys. “Our neighbors are fantastic in understanding. JJ goes over to visit with them, which is huge. … They all asked, ‘How can we help?’ Or, ‘Can you tell us more about autism?’ I had just received my first copy of the book the week we moved down here, so I started sharing the book around the neighborhood.”
The book has not only helped other families here and beyond, but it has also helped Jeffreys herself.
“It just put the whole picture together,” she says. “I didn’t realize how there were little tiny beasts of trauma just floating around in my head from the experience of trying to advocate for my child. And when I put it down on paper, it was very releasing–very healing.”
A couple of notes on autism she wants readers to take away:
Jeffreys reports that today, JJ is doing really well adjusting to the move to Myrtle Beach. He just got his first job, in fact, and he loves gaming and spending time at the neighborhood pool or at the beach.
Having taught music education for more than 35 years, Jeffreys didn’t completely walk away from music. She still plays the piano–something she’s done since the age of 6. She also blogs for the Myrtle Beach Chamber, focusing on topics centered on traveling with autism.
To purchase “You Were Made for This,” visit Amazon, ShipOnSite, or Sproutinghealthyfamilies.com.