‘Scott was in bed Googling autism. ‘This is me, isn’t it?’: Mom urges ‘radical’ acceptance after whole family diagnosed with autism, ADHD

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“Humour and humility, trauma and joy. My journey has been intense but so worth it.

My name is Zoe (pronounced ‘Zo’) Martin. I’m a mother to two beautiful, beautiful children and a wife to an incredible husband. These two facts are my most treasured.

Parents with their two young children on a bridge by the water
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

You will see me reference ‘neurodivergent.’ Neurodivergent is a term gifted by Judy Singer in 1998 that refers to differences/variations of the human brain. It’s an inclusive term that includes autism, ADHD/ADD, and dyslexia. I love the term. For me, it helps provide hope and empowerment to my family and myself and to many in the neurodivergent community.

My journey with neurodivergent exploration begins here. My eldest child, Billy, got to about the age of 3, and people would say he is ‘a policeman.’ He had big responses, he craved high attention from others, he always had to be first, he needed the biggest slice of cake—the list goes on.

My mom could also see 1+1 wasn’t equaling two, and she validated my worries and concerns in a way where I felt safe to name them. I knew there was more to this. Billy went on to start kindergarten. I was called in for a parent-teacher conference, where the teacher
explained, ‘He is policing his peers, he calls out a lot, he moves a lot.’ Society says, ‘They are busy boys, they just need to be outside more.’ As if running around will solve differences in our neurology.

A mom and her young son who has candy in his mouth
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

Things really started to spiral down from here. My family was disconnected; Scott and I thought we were crap parents. We were taking out the confusion and stress on each other, which was causing distance in our marriage.

We kept ‘pushing through,’ and next up, Zhema, my youngest child, started kindergarten, and Billy was going into first grade. At this pivotal time in their development, entering the school environment, it’s so common for the ‘signs’ to emerge. Zhema’s teacher would say Zhema was aloof, off in space. At home, we would call it, ‘Oh yeah, she likes to go to unicorn land.’ I thought it was cute and dismissed it as a problem. I can see now that was a defense mechanism because I didn’t feel I could cope with anything more.

Scott (my husband) and I were a mess. The next few years were like we were in a dream which felt more like a nightmare sprinkled with limited and passing moments of joy.

Parents kiss their daughter on either cheek
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

The big day came. Scott and I took Billy to a pediatrician. Billy was 7 at the time when he was officially diagnosed as Autistic. Later on, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). This created another opportunity for radical responsibility, but, at the time, it felt like one of the best days of my life and one of the worst. Now I knew, and that both excited and frightened me.

Scott’s rigidity and black-and-white thinking, his need for social justice, and his holding very high opinions are traits I have loved and made wrong for 23 years. He is one intense, phenomenal human. Scott was on his own journey with it all. When we got Billy’s diagnosis, I knew Scott’s was ever-looming. One night, Scott was in bed Googling autism. He asks me, ‘This is me, isn’t it, Zed?’ My mom and I had been talking about this possibility and the high likelihood of Scott also being autistic for a while. I responded to Scott, ‘It might be.’

My warrior of a husband made the courageous step to decide he would go for a diagnosis appointment. He hoped if he was in fact autistic, it could help Billy to know his dad had made it through life and so would he. Scott, at the age of 46 years old, was diagnosed.

A father sits with his two children
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

When you’re diagnosed, your whole life flashes back before your eyes. All the traumas, pains, struggles—you start seeing how much this diagnosis makes sense of your past. It’s a painful process, and it takes time. Scott was making these connections with his past, and I was so proud of him, but it took a toll on both him and me.

I finally listened to the school and agreed to take my younger child, Zhema, who was 6 at the time, to a pediatrician too. She was officially diagnosed as Autistic too. Later on, she was also diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Diagnosis after diagnosis after diagnosis.

A mother and her daughter wearing swim clothes
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

I walked around saying I was the only neurotypical person in the house. However, the diagnosis of Zhema did send me into some deep reflection of my own past.

Growing up, it was hard for me to make and maintain friendships. Working out girls, the ‘gossiping’, what clothes to wear, what to say and not say. I selected a few girls in my regular surroundings and copied them. I would stare and listen and study the way they moved, their language, their clothes. I hung out with boys a lot as I found them less complicated and easier to understand. Every report card said I worked spasmodically. Every report card said, ‘Zoe is easily distracted, distracts others, talks too much, is not working to
her potential.’ Every report card, every year.

A mother hugs her daughter who is wearing a pink hoodie
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

Autism, ADHD, neurological differences: these were all things not on the radar when I was growing up. There weren’t kids with these diagnoses in my school. To say there was little awareness of neurodiversity and what it did and didn’t look like back then is bang on. The great news now is there is still a huge gap in acceptance, but it can be closed.

It was time for me to take radical responsibility. I went to a diagnosis appointment. My mom came with me; I lost my Dad at 17, and my mom has continued to be side-by-side with me through my entire journey. Autistic, yep. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder/attention deficit disorder (ADHD/ADD combined), Pathological Demand Avoidant (PDA), yep, yep, yep.

A woman and her mother sit together in a grassy field
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

I began my painful process of connecting my past with my diagnosis. All of this made a lot of connections for my mom too. I am blessed to have her by my side and to help me remember my past, which helps me to be able to make peace with it all. My heart contracts and still grief arises when I feel into all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades I dedicated to trying to be anyone but me. Don’t be Zoe. Be anyone but Zoe.

I talked a lot. I laughed a lot. I loved a lot. I thought a lot. I grew up feeling like something wasn’t right with me. Within my bones, deep in my core, all I knew was I wasn’t like everyone else. I was different, and I didn’t know what to do about it. So as painful as the diagnosis was, it made sense of a very confusing past.

A little girl stands on a boat with her hands on her hips
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

After the diagnoses of my children and husband, I thought I could fix autism, and I was in for the biggest faceplant of my life. I fell to my rock-bottom: I was blaming, projecting, and beating myself up emotionally. I took the children to what felt like a billion therapy appointments. I thought that was the solution. I even asked Scott to leave. Thankfully, he wouldn’t leave; he knew I didn’t really want that. He reminded me we made a commitment to be married and have children.

I went through the process of unlearning any parenting book I’d read, unlearning everything I’d done. There was stuff I had done that was 100% wrong. I continue to unlearn something most days. The unbecoming of our family. It was like a high-rise building collapsing, and, in the rubble, Scott and I were the foundation needed in order to rebuild.

It started with a lot of therapy for the kids; some good, some not so good. Looking back, I can see how I just raced around making my kids wrong. Taking them to this and this and this and exhausting myself,  just depleting. It was serving no one, the tens of thousands of dollars spent on appointments. SO many do it.

Talking with other parents about what I was going through was hard. I struggled in finding my ‘people’—battling the feeling of being isolated and alone. Missing that sense of community and belonging. Those early days of treating it as a medical disorder were the worst.
What I now know to be true is we are all in the order of ourselves. I am in the order of Zoe. Complete 100% order of Zoe.

A woman clipping the leaves of a short tree
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

The big thing at diagnosis was doom and gloom. 90% of the places I looked. Stories I heard. Doom and gloom. ‘Your kids are always going to struggle.’ ‘Life is going to be crap.’ I would go on group pages within social media, and there would be parents videoing their
children, saying horrific things about their children. So frightening and upsetting to view. I could find no one with stories saying, ‘This is actually going to be okay. It’s going to be more than okay.’

What I witnessed on social media was the catalyst and fuel for me creating a safe space for mothers who are neurodivergent and/or leading neurodivergent children. Prior to my career change, I had been in finance for 28 years, and all those years, it was about helping, serving, and solving. A lot of the time, it was clients’ emotional problems, not financial. I was always interested in helping people and exploring the mind. I did a lot of my self-development courses while mortgage-broking.

A woman stands at the beach with one hand over her heart
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

I stopped eating the fear and doom and gloom sandwich. I focused on love, I got help. Scott and I got support within our marriage. I realized what we need to pull my family out of this dark hole was me taking care of myself, I couldn’t lead my children in the mess I was in. It was radical responsibility, and it was hard.

What I was doing, without being able to name it at the time, was unplugging from a matrix that did not serve my family and plugging into Team ‘Martin,’ creating a new matrix, for our new reality and future.

Then the day came—I realized Earth was hiring, and I got the job. I took the leap to leave my longstanding job in finance and pursue my passion, my mission. Supporting, serving, and helping mothers who are neurodivergent and/or leading neurodivergent children.

My love of learning has resulted in me holding certifications in Coaching (Optimize Coach), Epigenetics (ph360 Health Coach & ph360 Parenting Facilitator), Communication (Parent Talk System – PTS), Fitness (Certificate 3 & 4 in Personal Training). The modalities that mean the most to me are Futurist (where I am trained to co-create Brilliant Futures), a meditation teacher, and currently Australia’s only Transcendental Rebirth facilitator.

A woman sits with a class full of people on yoga mats
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

I created and currently still run an online membership program where mothers get to do motherhood their own way. This membership is entitled ‘Sovereign Mother’s Circle.’ In here, mothers are encouraged to be in the business of themselves. In here, they belong. It is inherently radical. Radical in acceptance. Radical in supporting you to be your own Sovereign Mother. Radical in unity. The modalities I teach and the truth-telling between us all is radical. This circle is for mothers who are ready to remember their essence—those amazing traits that are at their core, under all the projections, judgments, and old beliefs.

We can forget who we are and who we are not once we bring children into the world, and during the big diagnosis whirlwind, I experienced this myself. I craved community and was trying to find it. I made it my responsibility to fill that gap, provide more opportunities for love, growth, and acceptance. I’ve written a book entitled ‘Making Peace with Autism.’ This book isn’t all about autism, it’s a memoir that’s been written to show you what is possible when a mother no longer sees autism as a medical disorder. It’s the story of me, my family, and our radical journey. It’s available for purchase through my website and internationally through Amazon.

A woman sits alone on a yoga mat with her hand on her chest
Courtesy of Zoe Martin

My most recent endeavor has just begun recently. This is a course guided by me to take mothers through the ‘Futuring’ modality. This is the first time Futuring has been specifically created and designed for the neurodivergent space. I could no longer ignore the deep pain, trauma, and suffering that we as mothers who are leading autistic and neurodivergent children in this day and age are facing. Futuring combines a modality where we can forgive and make more peace with our past. It gifts you the opportunity to keep what is yours and give back what is not from your past.

A mother wearing a pink dress stands by the water
Courtesy of Greg Dries

There is a radical opportunity for forgiveness and responsibility, and it allows you to see why you are exactly where you are and how to create, build and change the future from NOW. It’s being held in the highest frequency of love, bringing together several different modalities I am qualified within.

Humour and humility, trauma and joy. My journey has been intense but so worth it. My journey is forever going.”

A mother stands in the sand wearing a yoga outfit
Courtesy of Zoe Martin
Parents sit with their two young children
Courtesy of Greg Dries

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Zoe Martin of Queensland, Australia, the Neurodivergent Parent Coach. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

‘There’s something missing in your son.’ I brushed it off as him being ADD like me. I felt guilty and angry.’: Neurodivergent mom to son with autism urges ‘self-empowerment’ for others like her

The Day I Was Diagnosed As Autistic Was The Day I Became ‘Normal’

‘He’s a HORRIBLE little boy.’ My heart broke into pieces.’: Mom details parenting two children with ADHD, ‘The tears and tantrums were worth it’

‘My family said, ‘I told you so.’ Why didn’t I notice it? I wanted to pretend it never happened.’: Mom first denies son’s autism diagnosis, now advocates for ‘acceptance, inclusion’

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