Meet Josephine, also known as Josie, a sweet 4 year old diagnosed with autism. Josie participated in Faces of Autism last year, you can read that HERE.
Josie has become much more vocal this past year. She has mastered several board puzzles, and has become very strict when it comes to her daily routines, which has it's advantages and disadvantages. She has also begun to touch her least favorite textures, such as Play-Doh and "slime". Another exciting change for Josie has been sleep. She used to struggle to stay asleep through the night, but thanks to routine and liquid melatonin, she now sleeps at least 8 hours a night. Most importantly, Josie has started to bond with her Grandparents, she even allows hugs and sometimes kisses.
Josie is a sweetheart, she doesn't show a whole lot of affection, so when she does, it means the world. She has grown to be very strong-willed and is also very protective over her little sister. She is very smart, even though she may not look at you or speak to you, she is always paying attention. Josie is very fond of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. She has dozens of figurines, that she enjoys lining up and talking to. She loves paging through books and listening to music. She often sits and listens to her favorite artist, Jack Johnson.
Josie has a sensory processing disorder. She struggles with eating soft/mushy textures. She will mostly only eat hard/crunchy textures. She eats very little because of her food aversions and relies on Pediasure to get most of her nutrition. She will absolutely only drink milk from a certain bottle. Because of her poor diet, Josie struggles with constipation. We have to sneak stool softener into her juice nearly every day. Josie is still sensitive to crowds and lots of noise. She struggles when attending family celebrations, such as holidays or birthday parties. Josie has not yet found a way to communicate, we rely on cues, expressions and sounds.
About raising a child with autism, Josie’s parents say “As an autism parent, you really appreciate the little things. No achievement is too small. We've learned to slow down and just live in the moment. It can be isolating and very lonely at times. There are a lot of events/activities we are not able to attend, because we know it would make Josie extremely uncomfortable. I think autism is still very misunderstood. A lot of people think our child is just misbehaving or that we coddle her. It's known as an "invisible disability" for a reason.”
The advice Josie’s parents give if you would like to support a family or individual with autism:
”I think just not being afraid to talk to someone with autism is great. I see so many friends and family members who are afraid to talk to our daughter, because she is nonverbal. But she actually loves being acknowledged. The more you talk to her, the more comfortable she becomes being around you.”
Josie’s parents give this advice to parent’s of children newly diagnosed or suspect their child might have autism: “It's normal to mourn the loss of your expectations/dreams you once had for your child. And to remember after diagnosis, that nothing has changed about the child you love. I'd also suggest joining the BisMan Autism Families group on Facebook. We've met some wonderful people in this group! Someone has almost always been where you and your child are, and will offer support and/or advice.”