Meet Faith, a sweet and fun 16 year old young lady that was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. Most kids featured in this project were volunteered through their parents. But not Faith! She volunteered herself, as she really wanted to be a part of it and tell her story, and I am honored to be able to help tell it. She is an amazing girl and I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet her!
When Faith was a baby, she was right on track for milestones, cooing and babbling, making eye contact, and playing with toys. After a bit her parents started seeing a change. She wasn't making as much eye contact, the baby babbling stopped, and she stopped playing with toys. Her parents didn't know why this had happened or what was going on. Around that time, Faith's mom started working part time in a daycare, where one child in particular caught her attention. She started asking questions of the child's mom and telling her about Faith, and was advised to go get her questions answered by a professional yesterday, because early intervention is key! At the time, Faith's doctor told her mom not to worry, but her mom felt that it was something more, and kept pushing.
Faith says her strengths are playing the drums, playing basketball, dancing, and rapping hip hop. She LOVES hip hop, and music in general. Faith loves sports and is involved in the Special Olympics and the Inclusive Sports programs, as well as her schools Peer to Peer program. She likes watching football, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, she loves all Pittsburgh teams, the Penguins, Pirates and the University of Pittsburgh. After graduation, Faith hopes to attend the University of Pittsburgh, studying music and playing in the drumline. Maybe even be on the Steel line for the Steelers!
Faith's mom says her strengths are creativity and imagination, in addition to playing drums, basketball and running track. Faith uses her imagination and creates a lot of great things. She is very determined and strong-willed, and she also gives the best hugs.
When asked about struggles, both Faith and her mom agree (you don't often hear that sentence when it comes to teenagers and their parents!). Faith struggles with socializing, but loves people. She is the "awkward" type of autism where she wants to be friends, but has problems with relating and communicating with peers. She struggles with understanding abstract concepts and she is somewhat of a perfectionist. Faith feels like the perfectionism comes out the most while playing music in band. Sometimes her temper flares very easily when she is frustrated that she is not being understood and can't explain her feelings.
About having a child with autism and her experience, Faith's mom says:
"Loving your child regardless of anything is first and foremost. Having a child with autism has many emotions on many different levels. It is very challenging and trying at times, but rewarding and triumphant in others. You learn patience and begin to see things differently. You learn not to take things for granted and understand that every moment is a teachable moment for both you and your child. Embrace and learn all you can about your child and then the things of autism. Remember, they are a child first, then they have autism, not the other way around. These things coupled together can have you on the journey of making you and your child be the best you can be. You can help develop their strengths and help diminish the things that do not enhance their lives. Don't give up when it gets hard, because it WILL get hard. Educate yourself and you will learn to advocate for your child. This will help you so you can better help your child. Share your stories with others and encourage them along the way. We all need support along this journey, why not help someone else. My autism experience has been a beautiful addition to my life. I never knew about autism until my child was diagnosed. I began to learn and grow and was eager to help other families. The desire is still great. I will continue to do all I can do share my story, learn from others, encourage, empower others on their journey and using the platform, ND Autism Connection to help do so."
This is what Faith had to say about autism:
"Living with autism is different for each person who has it. For me, it is very hard sometimes. I want people to know that I am important like everyone else. I matter just like everyone else. I just need people to be patient with me because sometimes it takes longer for me to understand things. It's hard for me to get my thoughts out and I get stuck and can't express myself. Sometimes I have meltdowns and I just can't help it. I am not giving anyone a hard time, I am just having a hard time. Thankfully my family "gets" me and they pray for me and help me. I love myself and I love what I do. I want to help others who have autism love themselves too."
**To Faith from me: I want you to know that you are important. I know that everyone that is reading this feels that way as well. I look forward to seeing all the great things you will do in life and the amazing advocate you will be!