Autism Awareness Month at Campos Family Vineyards
At Campos Family Vineyards, we hold a special place in our hearts for autism awareness and related causes. In this blog post, we are honored to have two of our beloved employees, who are also parents of children with autism, share their personal journeys with us. They share their challenges and offer valuable insights into the various resources and programs that have helped them along the way. Through their reflections, we’re reminded of the unique joys and blessings that their children with autism bring into our lives.
What is your child’s name and age?
Jamie: Gianna A.K.A. Gigi. Turning 17 on May 4th.
Renee: Jax. 9 years old but will be 10 (also on May 4th!)
What were some of the things you noticed that prompted you to have your child screened?
Jamie: When Gianna was a baby, she would sometimes become inconsolable to the point that she would lose consciousness. We became increasingly concerned around her 1st birthday that something wasn’t quite “right”. However, it was very difficult for doctors to pinpoint what was going on. Finally, after years of broad testing and spinning our wheels, we chose to take her to a private specialist for proper diagnosis and tools.
Renee: The biggest indicator was his lack of speech. He had some words but was delayed in comparison to other peers his age. I initially thought that maybe he was a little behind because like so many people said, “Boys take longer to develop.” Looking back, I think I was in a little bit of denial. When we took Jax to his 3-year check-up, his pediatrician told us that he was showing several signs of autism and that he should be evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. Hearing those words sent me into a whirlwind. I had heard of autism before but knew nothing about it. Looking back, I see that Jax showed quite a few signs of autism at a very young age – he had few words, he stimmed, he didn’t always respond to his name, his sleeping patterns were all over the place, he walked on his tippies, had stomach/digestion problems, and so on. He was diagnosed 3 months after his 3rd birthday.
What were some of the programs and supports that you used to help them grow and develop? How do you handle being their advocate?
Jamie: We enrolled Gianna in various sensory-play and educational programs early on which was very much hit and miss. We had to learn through trial and error what worked for her and what did not. Those trials helped equip me to advocate for her needs and work with the local school to get proper accommodations in place. Once she got older, we moved her to a more specialized school that was better equipped to support her needs. Now, she’s a junior in high school, is able to advocate for herself, and is doing remarkably well.
Renee: The Regional Centers of the East Bay was one of the first resources that we got Jax set up with. Next, we had an early intervention with our local school district (Brentwood Union School District). We had to change our health insurance to get Jax the necessary services he needed like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA therapy). Being an advocate never stops. I will do whatever I can in my power to make sure that Jax gets what he needs to help him succeed in every aspect of life.
How has Campos Family Vineyards been supportive of you as employees? What types of things do they do to promote awareness?
Jamie: Ric and Michelle are the grandparents of Gianna and have been very open to my needs as a parent when it comes to needing time away from work, needing to process my own emotions, and have walked with me through some really precarious times. They have also really taken Gianna’s love for art seriously and let her design the label for Gigi’s Blend, which is not only a fantastic wine but has given us a platform to promote autism awareness while also donating money back to further research and help provide resources to the autism community.
Renee: CFV has been so wonderful and understanding of my situation of having a child with autism. They have allowed me to have a flexible work schedule to accommodate my son’s needs, appointments, etc. Autism awareness/acceptance isn’t just during the month of April at CFV. With Gigi’s blend being one of the CFV staple wines and its first Give Back wine, autism is talked about and promoted all year long! CFV also hosts an Autism Forum each year providing inspiration, community, and the opportunity to donate.
What has been the biggest struggle in raising a child on the spectrum? What has been the biggest blessing?
Jamie: The biggest struggle has been the judgment and the isolation. I have been given unsolicited advice and opinions and handed notes in public. The perception that my daughter is just acting “naughty” or that I am not properly parenting my child has been very isolating and upsetting. My daughter has never fit in the “box” that the schools and society want to cram our kids into. As parents, we have watched our daughter be cast out and shunned which has been the greatest emotional strain of my life.
The biggest blessing is that I am truly a better human on this earth. My tolerance and love for others have multiplied by a thousand. My ability to stop what I’m doing and make eye contact with a struggling parent or touch her shoulder in a time of struggle is exactly what this world needs. I have learned many techniques over the years and when I can be of help—I am not going to be the one to walk away in judgment or disgust. I have learned to lean in when things get tough because society can be cold. I have been called show love and compassion.
Renee: The biggest struggle raising a child on the spectrum is finding resources. There is so much out there to help your child and if you don’t know where to look, it can be very difficult to find. Another struggle is finding people who can relate to your story and everyday life. It can be very lonely and isolating. The biggest blessing is watching him grow and progress. He works so hard for things that come so easily to everyone else and to see all that he has accomplished is amazing. Jax has changed me as a person, he has given me a different perspective on life and what actually matters, and for that, I am so thankful. He has shown me that love needs no words.
What advice would you offer to parents whose child is on the spectrum?
Jamie: Soak up as many resources as you can and add some tools to your belt. Learn your rights as a parent and become acutely involved in your child’s needs. Use your voice and your power as your child’s parent and don’t feel ashamed or afraid to be the squeaky wheel.
Renee: I would tell other parents to do what is best for them and their families even if it goes against what the experts say. Only you truly know your child. I would also say to meet your child where they are and don’t try and change them. They are exactly who they were meant to be. There will be peaks and valleys on this journey but always remember to find the joy and never lose hope!
What is your favorite part about being their parent?
Jamie: I love that I have the freedom to let my daughter be exactly who she is. I love watching her navigate hard situations and celebrate her wins. I am not dealing with “typical” teenage behavior with my daughter and I am so proud of her love for others and her strong boundaries and convictions…even if they don’t exactly match mine. I am free to love her just as she is and celebrate who God created her to be.
Renee: My favorite part about being Jax’s parent is getting to walk alongside him on his journey. Celebrating the smallest feats, being present every second of every day, and no longer taking things for granted. Jax has filled my and my family’s life with so much love. He is such a blessing!