The Faces of Autism: Meet MiKynna
Meet MiKynna, an adorable, smart, sassy 3 year old girl diagnosed with Autism. She was featured last year, you can read that HERE, and, I am proud to say, she is mine!
In fact, she was, or rather is, my inspiration for doing "The Faces of Autism" project. After hearing so many times "But she doesn't look Autistic" or "Are you sure? She looks normal!" among other things that were probably intended to make me feel better about having a child with special needs, I felt it was necessary to show the world what Autism looks like. Newsflash, Autism doesn't have a look. It doesn't have an economic or social class, a race, a gender, an age. If you spend some time with a child with Autism that you don't know, you may see signs of Autism, or you might not.
MiKynna was diagnosed at 15 months with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She had a few words, saying "night night", "mama" and "dada" but then they disappeared, just as quickly as they had come. She wasn't interested in toys beyond spinning wheels on cars or holding flashing light right up to her eyes. She did, however, have an unusual fascination with all things metal. She didn't respond to her name, and never tried to get our attention. Her diagnosis happened very quickly, with all involved believing the quicker she gets help, the better.
Over the past year MiKynna has been discharged from Speech Therapy. This is HUGE as a year ago she had very few words, only one or two word sentences and now she is a blabber mouth, with very complex and long sentences! She almost never stops talking. She also cusses like a sailor sometimes (read: way too often). She has added variety into her diet, eating more than the chips and noodles she ate last year. She is more willing to try new foods, although she may only taste it and pocket it until we have her spit it out. It's a work in progress.
MiKynna struggles with gross motor skills and balance. She also struggles socially, emotionally, and with self-care. She doesn't interact with peers like a typical child, but still prefers parallel play. She does well playing with older children and adults, though, which is a very common trait for children with Autism. MiKynna has a problem with consistency. She may show that she is capable of doing a skill, but she can't always do that skill, and cannot generalize it across all environments. She is working hard to be the poster child for Early Intervention! Ha!
Autism in girls can look very different than it does in boys, which may partially account for why boys are currently diagnosed 4 times more than girls are. THIS was a great read that you may enjoy about girls on the Spectrum. In fact, it looks so different that often times, if a girl is properly diagnosed, it comes later than with a boy, and usually is after getting misdiagnosed with ADHD or OCD first.
Girls with Autism can have an amazing ability to mimic peer behavior in social situations in order to "fit in". Another interesting fact, several studies have shown that girls with Autism are better at keeping their emotions under control in school, acting much different than they do at home. This can become very frustrating for parents when it comes to the school acknowledging that the child has needs beyond their neurotypical peers. Trust me, I know. HERE was another article on the subject that I enjoyed.
I have learned so much from MiKynna. I am slightly more patient, I am more understanding and less judgemental. I went through a long period of avoiding friends with neurotypical children around MiKynna's age because, quite frankly, it hurt to see the differences and how far behind she was, it was just easier to stay focused on the progress she made by staying away. It's a little strange to say, but because of my daughter's diagnosis, I have met some amazing people and have added them to my village. The kind of people that are there for us no matter what, no matter the time, day or night. Because of this, I am grateful for what Autism has given us, even with the trials, turbulations, rollercoaster of emotions.
If you suspect your child may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are great supports in the community. One of my favorites is BisMan Autism Families on Facebook, the people there can help guide you in the right direction, and throughout the process.