Meet Isabella, known as Bella to her family and friends, an empathetic 8 year old girl that was diagnosed with autism when she was 3.5 years old. Isabella has participated in Faces of Autism all four years and it is so wonderful to see the progress she has made over this time! You can read last year’s story HERE.
Bella has greatly improved her speech abilities and expanded her vocabulary over the past year. She responds appropriately more often when having conversations including improved word association. For example, if she sees her swimming suit, she will now talk about going swimming. Bella has also gained independence over daily activities such as getting dressed, going into vehicles, and picking up and carrying items. She also does not run off as frequently. She acknowledges and seeks out her sister more to interact and play with her.
Bella is one of the most kind and empathetic people you will ever meet. She wants everyone to be happy and nice to one another. She loves hugs, even if they are from the side or back, and hand squeezes. Bella loves playing and listening to all types of music. She also enjoys dancing and playing with her friends at school. Bella loves being outside, playing on playgrounds, and going boating. She has recently started attending an adaptive swimming class and is enjoying it. Most of all she absolutely loves riding horse. There are few things that bring a smile to her face more than riding a horse named Rex.
Although Bella has improved on her eating abilities and receptiveness to different textures, she still struggles with chewing food. She has expanded what types of foods she will eat, but it still has to be ground up. Like many on the spectrum, Bella has difficulty sleeping at night at times. Sometimes it takes her a while to fall asleep and other times she wakes up in the middle of the night and won't go back to sleep. The number of times a week she sleeps through the night has improved over time though.
One of the highlights Bella’s parent’s experienced while raising a child with autism is the wonderful autism community and all the support they receive from so many people. “It has been amazing to get to know all the therapists, families and great people that have helped Bella and others grow.” says Bella’s parents. “Raising Bella has given us an appreciation to the simple things in life and how small things can be great achievements. Something as simple as using a zipper or putting a shoe on can bring tears to our eyes. Hearing her "I love you" statements warms our hearts. Autism has taught us to appreciate the simple things in life and to take things one day at a time.”
And some of the unique challenges that come with raising an autistic child “Lack of sleep can be very difficult. At times it is challenging to see how others respond negatively in public when they don't understand autism, but we have learned how to brush it off. This has, in part, lead us to become advocates in the community to help raise awareness. Traveling can be a big challenge. Often times when Bella's routine changes, she struggles with it.”
Even though Bella isn't able to fully verbalize her feelings at this point, she understands what people say. She would want everyone to be kind to one another.
For those that want to help support an individual with autism and their family but might not know how, Bella’s parents give this advice “Do not be afraid to ask them if they need help. Often times special needs families do not want to burden others, so it might help to offer what support you can first. Continue to invite them to social gatherings even if they often decline your invitation or have to leave early.”
“Early intervention is very beneficial for your child. If you suspect your child has autism at all, then please get them evaluated.” Bella’s parent’s advise. “Reach out to autism support groups and other families in the autism community. Autism is not something your child will "grow" out of, so the sooner you can get them the extra help they need, the sooner you will start to see improvements.”
Bella’s parents would like to add “We are thankful for organizations such as Bis-Man Autism Families and Family Voices of North Dakota. They have helped us become better advocates for our daughter and become more involved in the community in spreading autism awareness and acceptance.”