“…we are all birds, free to fly and find a nest, even if it’s on someone else’s shoulder”
Flavia is vibrant, intense, and disciplined, however she shows the levity of the artistic roller skater that she once was. She chose to glide and take flight to the song “Passarinho” by Vanessa da Mata that represents her free spirit.
“I am confident, and it’s my confidence that makes me positive...I always think that everything will be alright”
It was with this positive energy that our conversation began. Right from the beginning, Flavia described herself as a restless, excitable, active but super positive person. “I like things for yesterday, I never leave anything for later.”
She tells me that she was a roller skater in her childhood and adolescence and that the sport helped neutralize all of her extra energy and hyperactivity. At the same time, the sport reinforced some of her characteristic discipline and focus.
Flavia is the kind of woman who is resilient, who does not give up on her objectives easily, especially her dreams.
“My greatest dream was to be a mother.”
Eyecontact with Flavia Magri, Edson Cury – Antônio’s and Álvaro’s parents - Ribeirão Preto – SP – Brazil - 2nd of June of 2016
Getting pregnant seemed to be her greatest challenge because of her somewhat advanced age. But within one year of trying, with the help of in vitro fertilization, she was pregnant. And like everything in her life, it was intense; she ended up being a mom twice over. Flavia and Edson today are parents of four-year-old twins, Antonio and Alvaro.
However, from the beginning these parents knew that something was abnormal in the development of one of their sons, Antonio. The development of his brother, Alvaro, pointed every day to the differences between the two. Flavia recalls “… Since they were twin brothers, I noticed that [Alvaro] would seek interaction with Antonio but he would not attend to it.”
Worry took over Flavia and she began to research online about the atypical behavior that Antonio presented. It was this way that when Antonio was two years old, Flavia began to suspect that her son could be on the autism spectrum. Her suspicions were soon confirmed by a specialist.
“Desperation” was what Flavia and Edson say they felt the moment they received the official autism diagnosis. It was as if Flavia and Edson, in one wave of the hand, slipped from a dream into a nightmare. She opened her heart and said, “I had my days of mourning. It was three intense days, three days of a lot of crying, of much uncertainty, [with] little knowledge about the diagnosis.”
She adds that she felt like she was in the middle of a whirlwind of unanswered questions, and without fear, Flavia vents:
”…I had a lot of anger, trying to understand where it began, where I went wrong? Why it had to be with me and not with another person. I would become very sad with the strange looks at my son. But then just as everything came to the surface, everything went out. I turned on the stopwatch to seek the best treatment for Antonio.”
Flavia was quick and overcame mourning without batting an eye. She took control of the situation and started to create a new choreography for her life and her family. With new moves, sometimes beautiful leaps or fancy tricks, she began to skate on the unfamiliar stage that is the world of autism.
“Always thinking about my son and knowing that I’ll be the person that will determine his life’s path, I searched and searched and searched tirelessly for where to start, doctors, treatments, etc.”
Two years after the diagnosis, with Antonio now four years old, Flavia’s sentiment is one of “…serenity and clarity because the breakthroughs started emerging and the final result of each phase of his development has been wonderful.”
Even so, she says, “I’m not 100% happy.” She declares that she has fears and moments of anxiety about Antonio’s future, especially her constant doubt about if they are providing the best treatment for their son.
“I let go of my job, thinking that I would be back in two years...that was exactly when Antonio was diagnosed...I lost my ground about returning to work.”
Antonio, Antonio, Antonio. Alvaro, Alvaro, Alvaro. How she herself says, “[to be a] mother of an autistic child is to live twenty-four hours with autism.” But Flavia is a mom forty-eight hours per day, because she has a duplicate mission. It means being connected the entire day, thinking and working so that Antonio can reach his maximum potential for independence, adaptation, and socialization, but it also means having an extra journey with her neurotypical son, Alvaro.
“I worry about Antonio’s future. This is always on my mind, but always with a certainty that the objective will be reached.”
The beautiful thing about Flavia’s story and that of her family is the way that she faces obstacles. She surprises and captivates with her joy and celebration with her son’s achievements. Her family turned into a team of roller skates that follow the rhythm she establishes. Every step of this family is based on their positive thinking and their joy of living. It is for this reason that their choreography is so successful.
“I laugh everyday...I laugh about myself, even about unexpected things”
Her family members are fundamental pieces of her strength and her well-being. They all take part in the day-to-day treatment for Antonio. She confirms this when she says, “I stay strong and firm because I have the presence of my husband and my other son. Together we are constantly changing Antonio’s life.”
She says that she is not a woman with the profile of a suffering person. And whoever coexists with her soon sees that she is always with a beautiful smile and a vibrant outlook towards everyone. Even after abandoning her work after Antonio’s diagnosis, she is certain that she is much happier this way, dedicating herself to her son twenty-four hours a day.
“I miss my job, but I feel that a mother’s care, which permits me to act correctly in the hour of need, makes all the difference”
Flavia conducts her life in this way, with one eye on Antonio and the other on Alvaro, considering the differences between the fraternal twins. The difference between her sons is what makes Flavia need to improvise and move, in every moment, between different styles of being a mother. Eyecontact is moved when she says, very naturally, “They are different and for this reason the approach I have towards each one is different.”
This family keeps dancing, conforming to the music that presents itself. This mother believes that it is important to respect and adapt to the rhythm that she imposes day-to-day.
“…We need to leave time to time; he is the master that shows us what is good or not.”
Eyecontact is not surprised when she tells us that what connects her with her autistic son is the fun they have together.
“Antonio is a clown, fun. He is fun and I am too. We laugh a lot together...we are very similar...he likes to be the center of attention.”
In truth, playing together is what builds a healthy and happy connection in this beautiful family. To finalize this story, Eyecontact chose the following phrase from Flavia:
“What makes me relax is when I go to bed with them and read them stories, but I [also] like working out, going to a bar, having some beer...with my husband, with my friends.”
FLAVIA’S MESSAGE TO PARENTS OF AUTISTIC CHILDREN:
Run while there is time, but with a focus and on the treatments that are key in the development of an autistic child. For me the key is applied behavior analysis (ABA).