When the doctor said the actual word, her heart sank. She looked at two-year-old Brayden playing on the rug and couldn’t stop the fears ricocheting through her mind, “What will his future hold? What if he won’t ever say ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad?’ Will he have friends? Will he get married? Will he live on his own someday?” At the time, Brayden’s autism diagnosis weighed heavily on Mitzi Goodson and her husband, Lance. But they were determined to give Brayden the best life possible, and with years of a rigorous therapy schedule, Brayden, now at age 7, is thriving – and Mitzi’s fears have given way to hope.
“Hearing the word autism takes your breath away. I had waited to find my husband – I got married at 30 – and I had my first kid at 32. You expect life to go a certain way, so this certainly rocked our worlds. We were heartbroken with the unknown future for Brayden,” said Mitzi.
A RAY OF HOPE AFTER AUTISM DIAGNOSIS
Not long after the diagnosis, Mitzi felt an unexpected ray of light enter her life. Her sister-in-law gave her an Origami Owl® Living Locket for her birthday. She said, “It made me cry. The locket had the Autism Awareness Heart Charm in it, the Blessed plate, and initials for both my boys. It made me cry tears of joy and smile for the first time since the word autism entered our lives. My locket gave me my hope back, and I knew that we were blessed no matter what lay ahead for us. We were going to get past everything that was thrown at us as a family!”
That hope became even more critical when their younger son, Colton, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome a few years later. “Colton was very different at a young age. He was quick to talk, quick to want to color and read, so we never thought anything until his behavioral issues kicked in.”
Although her life is filled with running from occupational therapy to applied behavioral therapy and more, Mitzi said that’s not the toughest part of raising sons with autism and Asperger. She said it’s watching them struggle and not being able to fix it. To other parents facing similar challenges, she said, “Remember, they help make us stronger people, because the battle they fight every day is so hard. There may be times when you’re going to cry, just do it in the other room. Then do whatever it takes with good therapy and schools. The help is out there. There’s so much hope – Brayden’s very social, very verbal now. Colton’s developed so much, too. They’re so inspiring!”
INSPIRATION & JOY
She draws from their inspiration in leading her Origami Owl team. Mitzi was so touched at the life-changing power of her locket that she joined Origami Owl as a Designer soon after. She since has gone on to become a Senior Team Leader, and said of her O2 experience: “I love to watch people have the same excitement I had when they create a locket. I also love the part where people trust you with their story. You’re standing there, in tears with them or laughing with them or giving them a hug. Being a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get out a lot, so it’s nice to have that time with other moms, to get recognition for doing something I love, and to make friends with women I never would have met otherwise,” said Mitzi.
Along with her passion for making a difference through Origami Owl, Mitzi’s said her “live sparkly” joy comes, not surprisingly, from her family. “It’s my boys and my husband – they are my everything. They make me a better person each and every day.”
For more information on autism and Asperger Syndrome, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.