We were at Caden’s 18 month appointment in August 2017, one month after Crew was born, when our pediatrician looked concerned and told us we should get Caden evaluated for autism because he hadn’t hit many of his milestones. My heart sunk. I didn’t know much about autism but the first thing I thought was how hard life was going to be for my baby.
It took a few months of waiting and $1,000 to get Caden the 45 minute evaluation to confirm he was autistic. He was placed in early intervention right away. He started ABA therapy 3 hours a day, 3 days a week at $120/day. Caden is fairly mild, mostly struggling with a range of sensory issues and speech delays so his therapy isn’t too intensive. We are extremely fortunate to live in Utah where both his therapy and school have continued throughout the never ending pandemic, however, the lack of activities and socialization started to get to all of us. I was searching for anything and everything I could do with the boys to keep them from being bored and overly emotional. Activities can be limited with kiddos with sensory issues but we exercised, we did chores, we took a million baths, we bought an indoor trampoline. We did it all, but it still wasn’t enough.
One evening I was going to paint some new wall art for our house and thought, why not have the boys try it out, it’s worth a shot. They had been on their iPads for way too long anyways. I called Caden and Crew over to see if they wanted to help me. They both climbed up on our counter stools, grabbed a little foam roller and started rolling the paint on the canvas as I squeezed it in different areas, with the biggest smiles on their faces.
I have always loved art and being creative. My dad was a brilliant artist. He passed away when I was 20. To this day, my most cherished memory of him is watching his hand move across a canvas as he painted. Selfishly, I had always wanted to share moments like that with my boys. Caden has had pretty severe sensory issues and had always struggled with holding a pen, touching paint and even watching the way paint drips out of the plastic container so I never really pushed him to join me, until that day.
The experience of watching Caden smile and sharing that moment with both of my boys got me thinking. I believe my autistic son was given to me for a reason and my father’s incredible talent and love for art that we shared was for a purpose. I was given these kids and they were given their abilities for a reason. I knew we had an opportunity to be better. I wanted to start selling their art to raise money for families that needed to have their kids in therapy. Every parent should be able to see the same joy and excitement as I see in Caden when he has these breakthrough experiences.
I worry. I worry a lot. I look at my little boy and can’t help but feel heaviness in my heart knowing how life might be for him. He’s going to be bullied, he’s going to be made fun of because he’s different. Will he ever have a job, drive a car, have a girlfriend? He’s 5 but all of these things go through my head every single day. The fact is, I don’t know. What I do know is that Caden is a special little boy that has so much to offer this world.
Autistic or not, we have the power to find a way to change lives. I started Caden & Crew Creatives because I see a joy in my boys when they paint and I know the importance of early intervention. There are countless families that simply can’t afford to have their children tested for autism, let alone pay for therapies. We sell Caden & Crew’s art to support families in giving their children the best opportunities they have in this life by funding the therapy they otherwise couldn’t afford.