Where Do You Live?
Indian Trail, North Carolina (Originally from Stony Brook, NY)
Tell Us About Your Family…
My husband Rob and I have two children: Rachel (11) and Robbie (8). My husband is an electrical engineer, and I am a pre-school teacher. We decided to move from Long Island to North Carolina in 2012, to be closer to family. Our daughter is now in the 6th grade, in the Exceptional Children’s Program at the middle school, and our son is in 3rd grade at the elementary school. We are very busy. Active in many after school sports and drama, as well as being very active with our church. We love our neighborhood and the many families we get together with. We are blessed in so many ways! We are a hockey family and enjoy the sport, either watching our favorite NHL team, The NY Rangers, or watching my favorite hockey player, our son Robbie, play hockey at the local ice rink in Indian Trail.
How Has Autism Impacted Your Family?
When our daughter, Rachel, was about 22 months old, it came to our attention that she wasn’t socially developing or interacting with other children. The interesting thing is that it wasn’t our pediatrician who noticed the delays, but other mothers who observed Rachel at family gatherings or friends’ birthday parties. They would say to me, “Have you had her evaluated?” To be honest, I was a bit offended, and thought to myself, “There is nothing wrong with my daughter. She’s just quiet!!” Later, after having Rachel evaluated, we learned that she showed signs of Autism and they gave her a diagnoses of (PDD-NOS) Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. (Side note, I went back and hugged and thanked each of those mothers who cared enough to mention their concerns about my daughter.)
Since then, it has been quite a journey…sleepless nights, many hours in IEP meetings, speech and occupational therapies, picky eating, countless meltdowns, and the all too common judgmental stares from others in public. Being a young girl, growing up with high functioning autism is challenging and frustrating. When you meet my daughter, you would most likely not see anything wrong or out of the ordinary at first. She is capable of making great eye contact with adults and now has a wonderful vocabulary and is energetic, high spirited and outgoing. The challenges come in when she has to sit in a classroom or anywhere, for a long period of time, and has to keep her focus. She needs continuous redirection and is not aware of her surroundings, which can be dangerous for her safety. She has a difficult time socializing with her peers and doesn’t have many friendships.
How Do You Participate In Your Community?
We attend Living Hope at Ballantyne Church, which is my home away from home, since I teach young twos there at the Living Hope Preschool, as well as attend services. We love our church family and get very involved in the children’s ministries. I believe God has a plan for everyone…as for me, as a mother of child with Autism, I can spot children coming into our classroom who show signs of delays in their communication skills, difficulty with transitions, or inappropriate social behavior. I am not a doctor or a specialist in the field, but I have a special place in my heart for all children, especially for those with any disability. Rachel was ice skating in the Special Olympics USA last year, and for the past few years she has been a member of the cheer and gymnastics program through (CEYA) Carolinas Exceptional Youth Athletes.
What Would You Tell A Local Family With A New Diagnosis?
Early Intervention is key!!!! If a family has any questions or concerns that their child may have some sort of delay, no matter how mild or severe, get that child evaluated. There are so many services and support groups that can help you. Continuously pray for wisdom and knowledge to find the answers and the right therapies and doctors to help you in your journey. There is a poem that was given to me when Rachel was in a 3 year old program at her preschool, that gave me comfort reading. It is called Welcome to Holland: A poem my Emily Perl Kingsley. I recommend you google it. I believe you will be blessed by it.