A Military Mom of Four and Former Homeschooler Shares Her PBD Experience
Ashley Maple, mother to Sophie (10), Lydia (8), Madden (6), and Archer—who has PBD and turns 4 in September—discusses what it’s like to raise a big family and find balance in the day-to-day at her home in Havelock, North Carolina.
With four children, I’m curious how you manage each day. Do you have help?
It is very challenging raising four children. We stopped homeschooling a year ago because I was so overwhelmed. School [outside of the home] has helped me find some balance, coupled with finding a fantastic preschool program for Archer. My husband is currently deployed, so two of my children are spending the summer with family, which is also a huge help.
What are some of the challenges you face on a daily basis?
The biggest challenge is to give the children what they need individually, and to be fully present for them. I am often emotionally and/or physically exhausted, so making and enjoying the time with my typically developing kids is always a challenge. It is hard to find activities that we can all enjoy together, or to always find a sitter for Archer. Often times we split up. For example, my husband might take the three older kiddos to a movie, and I’ll stay home with Archer.
And what are some of the joys?
Archer is of course a blessing! He makes us laugh and smile daily, and we delight in his every accomplishment. He reminds me that every day is a tremendous gift. And I believe my older children have developed a great compassion from having a sibling with special needs.
Are you able to find time for yourself? Or is that impossible at this stage?
This was our first year that we did not homeschool, and it was a necessary break for me. I was overwhelmed trying to homeschool with Archer home full-time. I have really enjoyed the break from being so busy, although I feel we will return to homeschooling at some point. Making time for myself makes me a much better mom and wife.
What has Archer’s preschool experience been like?
It has been an amazing learning experience for him. Archer is very social, and he has thrived in his preschool. His class integrates typical and special needs children, and they do all classroom activities together. Archer also receives therapy at his preschool, and his therapists work closely with his caregivers to make sure his needs are met throughout the day.
Have you noticed changes in Archer’s development?
He recently began walking at (almost) four-years-old. His balance is still unstable, and he cannot stand up unassisted, but walking has been the most exciting accomplishment for him. He wants to walk so badly. Archer is also able to copy most words he hears, although not always very clearly. I believe his preschool environment has been the biggest contributor to his language development.
How did you manage Archer’s diagnosis with your other children?
The older two have heard the term “terminal,” although we do not bring it up often. They have gone to the conferences, and I know they pick up on a lot more than we openly discuss. They’ve also attended many of Archer’s appointments and tests early on.
You mentioned your husband is in the military. Is he able to attend Archer’s appointments with you?
My husband was able to attend several doctors’ appointments at our previous duty station, which helped tremendously. We’ve also been fortunate that he was able to take leave to attend the GFPD conferences. We hope to be reunited in the fall!
Are you in touch with other parents in the GFPD? If so, what advice has been most helpful to you and your family?
We keep in touch with the Facebook group mostly. I have plans to visit another PBD family in the next two weeks actually, which I am so thrilled about!! The medical information shared and the experience of others is so helpful in guiding us toward treatment options.
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your story! And our thanks to Jennifer Hazard, of the blog Cute Potato, for her support and contribution.
If you’d like us to highlight your family’s PBD story, email Communications Coordinator Heidi Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.