By Rene Dominique

In celebration of #AutismAwarenessDay we want to honor a very special Southern Mom of Acadiana! By day, Carmon Simon is the Co-Director of the Health Academy at Lafayette High School. By night, she is a strong and supportive mother of two daughters and the perfect partner to her husband! Carmon’s life is never dull and continues to remain exciting every day!

Carmon’s first daughter, Lydia is ten years old and living with Autism! Though she might seem different from the average person, Lydia is gifted and talented in her own special way. She has a way of looking at the world and learning about it that amazes all!

At a very young age, it was recognized that Lydia had a great way of remembering things! It wasn’t until her second birthday that Carmon realized Lydia acted differently from the other kids around her age. After Lydia got upset because of the loud noises at her party, she put her hands over her ears and said the alphabet backwards. This was the final sign to Carmon and her husband, Duane, that Lydia was showing different behavior from other children her age.

They decided to take a trip to the Pediatric Neurologist. It was then confirmed that Lydia was autistic. Carmon was determined to help her daughter and find the best solutions in treating Lydia’s characteristics associated with autism.

Following a conversation with Carmon’s co-worker, she knew her first call to action was Early Steps! The wonderful worker associated with this program immediately came to the Simon’s home. They observed Lydia’s traits started with the first steps of the process. Once a week for an hour a day, Lydia would partake in speech classes.

Towards the beginning of the program, Carmon began to feel down on herself for her situation and expressed it to Lydia’s speech therapist, Lisa Delahoussaye. Lisa sat Carmon and Duane down then said, “You need to stop thinking there is something wrong with Lydia. There is nothing wrong with her. There is something wrong with all of us, and until you realize that you’re never going to understand her.” That’s when it clicked in Carmon’s head that they have to fit into her world and not the other way around.

From there, the Simons never doubted or questioned themselves again and continued to help support Lydia on her journey! Mrs. Delahoussaye pointed out that Lydia was a visual learner and put pictures around the Simon home to help her speech development. Proceeding these tasks, Lydia’s communication began improving.

Once Carmon and Duane were familiar with Lydia’s routine, they eventually welcomed another little blessing, Lily. She became the perfect little helper to her mom and especially her sister. Lydia adores Lily and looks up to her sister in many ways! Now that Lydia was progressing, it was time for her to start school. After a few bumps in the road, Carmon eventually found the perfect place for Lydia. The Resource program with Mrs. Cooke at Prairie Elementary is now Lydia’s second home. Lydia is able to express herself in a comfortable environment and experiences more one-on-one learning.

Along with this program, Lydia began to attend Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy to improve her performance. Carmon is noticing the improvements in her daughter’s day to day life and is excited for Lydia’s future progression in the program. Now that Carmon was seeing an incline in Lydia’s behavior, she felt more content with accepting help from others.

Every Friday, Carmon and her husband enjoy a date night around Acadiana while the kids stay with their grandparents, Mary & Steve Simon. They also help out by dropping off and picking up the girls from school and therapy. This gives Carmon and Duane, who are both teachers at Lafayette High School, a chance to focus on the children in their classrooms.

Nowadays, with help from her family and over eight years of experience since receiving that first examination, Carmon can say with confidences that the challenges she faces with Lydia are an experience she would have never changed. Though there are some hurdles with Lydia’s speech and behavior, she continues to overcome her obstacles and thrive little by little.

When Lydia says, “I love you. I want to hug you,” it reassures Carmon to continue being the strong mother she is! The Simon family is a unique family that we all love and support here at Southern Moms of Acadiana! Thank you for being the best mother you can be!

If any other moms are questioning the journey of autism, Carmon is always here to listen and give advice. She enjoys spreading awareness to the community!