This is the first in an occasional series of stories from within the Rethink Benefits family. Our employees will share their own personal stories and connections to why Rethink matters to them.

This is the personal story written and shared by Anthony Coniglio, Business Development Manager.

Anthony Coniglio

It’s 3:46 a.m. That’s the time I need to be up every day to start my work day while most of the “normal” world is sleeping. As I start to write this, my 2 sons are awake wanting to play video games pulling me away from my computer. Luckily for me, my employer will understand and support me. I am an autism parent.

I am married to my best friend, Kim. Together, we have 3 wonderful children. AJ who is 12, Anna who is 10, and Kristian who is 7. Our house is definitely organized chaos and, with the COVID-19 pandemic, that chaos has intensified by a thousand percent. To step away from our very hectic and busy lives, we love to spend time at the lake fishing and tubing.

AJ is on the spectrum, and Kristian has ADHD. I have 2 children that need my support and attention constantly. It is undoubtedly overwhelming, tiring and, at times, I feel like I am sinking in quicksand.

Prior to starting my career at Rethink Benefits, I spent 12 years in behavioral health. I worked primarily with Employee Assistant Programs and human resources to assist employees struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues to enter treatment.

I have worked with hundreds of families over the years and saved countless lives through treatment. I had never felt such personal fulfillment than when I knew someone’s father, brother, husband, friend was taking the first step toward a new life.

I dedicated myself in this field and learned all I could from top experts on why the brain acts the way it does in a chosen population and how to rewire the brain through treatment. I then started working with adolescents and families. After working with many families of children struggling with addiction, I found that almost 97 percent of kids were diagnosed with either attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or autism.

During this time, my wife and I started to realize our first-born son was having some differences than other children his age. First to our surprise, he knew his letters, numbers and animal sounds. Other children could barely speak a word at that age.

He couldn’t sleep and could stay up for two days straight without slowing down. He could not physically do other thigs that cousins his age could do. We started to speak with his physician on what was happening. The doctor hinted autism.

I then turned to my colleagues – therapists, physicians and clinicians – on what my next step should be. An advantage I had over most parents of developmentally delayed children was that I worked in this field and had resources at my fingertips. I also spoke more in-depth with some of the parents I was helping about their children, what they experienced and what they did.

But with all of this knowledge and guidance, I still had to live my life as a parent of a child with autism. It started to take a toll. I was constantly exhausted from work and home life. I went from a competitive athlete to an overweight unhealthy person.  I was sleep deprived. I would drag myself into the office every day. I was depressed.

Other friends and parents couldn’t understand why I couldn’t go out for dinner on a Saturday night. I had stopped trying to explain what I was living through with my son.

My job started to slip. My boss had approached me several times to make sure I was OK. I was falling asleep at my desk and did not make small talk around the water cooler anymore. I went from the top employee in my company to being drug tested four times in 2 months. Even though I worked in this field, I let the stigma take over. I had to tell my boss what was happening in my personal life to save my job.

I wanted to share my experience and knowledge with other parents like myself. I joined groups, became a moderator and speaker on the success I was having with the approach I took in my son’s life. Now, most parents looked at me like I did not understand what they were going through. They were suffering with depression, eating disorder, health issues, substance use. I explained I was going through the same things they were, and I explained we are a community that needs to support and educate each other if there were no professional resources available for any reasons.

My older son is considered to be of “Superior Intelligence” and the teachers and schools adore him. Again, I am truly lucky to have the support of the school but, with the pandemic, I have watched my son backslide. His sleeping is disturbed again, and his eating habits are not what they were.

I am concerned and sad to watch the regression of my son happen within months. Twelve years of dedicated work with him is slipping away, and I can’t stop it. I will use what I have at my fingertips. Leadership at Rethink has offered an extended helping hand to me.

My employer cares, and that takes a substantial weight off my shoulders and brings my stress and anxiety levels down. I have access to some of the best Board Certified Behavioral Analysts in the nation to guide me through this uncertain time. For the first time in my life, I am officially reaching out for help.

To any employer reading this: There are more employees sitting at their desk, in the office or at home, that are struggling, and you will never know. They feel alone and have nowhere to turn. These are some of the strongest people in the world. They get up every day, no matter what happens the night before. These are your best and most-dedicated employees, and they need you.

To any parent that may read this: Keep hope for our children’s future. Never let stigma define who you are. If they judge, invite them into your lives for a day. Most would apologize. Be proud of the struggles you face every day. You are super humans.

Rethink is driving equity, inclusion and advancement for the neurodiverse population.

Contact us to learn more about how Rethink can help your organization.