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The Faces of Autism/Berkley

The Faces of Autism/Berkley

The Faces of Autism: Meet Berkley

Meet Berkley, an incredible 9 year old boy diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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The Faces of Autism/Sisters Sammie and Sonja

You have met Sammie and Sonja individually, and their stories are very similar.  In case you weren't aware, they are twins.  Both with Autism.  Their mother may very well be my hero.

Sammie and Sonja's speech wasn't coming along as expected.  Their parents thought it was just a speech delay, they never even thought Autism and didn't know much about it.  Like most people, they associated Autism with things like no eye contact or lack of affection.  After someone had told them they thought the girls had Autism, they did research and realized they had many red flags.  

Both Sammie and Sonja are extremely affectionate.  Sammie is amazing at figuring things out on her own and is an avid animal lover.  Sonja is a great friend to others and tries her best to help her little brother out when he needs it.

Having twins is difficult, as any parent of multiples will tell you.  Having twins who both carry an Autism diagnosis is incredibly hard.  You have all the challenges of having a child with Autism, but twice, and at the same time.  Balancing two nearly identical therapy programs and communicating with around 20 therapists and special educational professionals is exhausting.

Even with all the difficulties and struggles their mother has this to say: "I am so grateful they both have Autism. They connect in their own world in a way they would never be able to without sharing it (the diagnosis). I don't ever have to worry about them being isolated because they understand eachother perfectly."

PS. The girls weren't really enthusiastic about me taking a photo of them together.  I tried twice.  So these are from last spring!

The Faces of Autism/Brothers Berkley and Beau

 

You have already met both Berkley and Beau individually.  They are brothers who both have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Depending on the study you read, when you have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, chances of a younger sibling having one as well is somewhere between 7% to 18%.  

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Berkley was diagnosed with Autism before Beau was born.  Because of this, their parents recognized the signs for Beau earlier.  The signs of Autism were similar, yet, at the same time, very different.  Their personalities are different, as well as their strengths and challenges.  Berkley struggles with language and fine motor skills, as well as following sequences, whether in the form of pictures or writing.  Beau's language is still developing, but he struggles with gross motor skills, such as balance and coordination, but he is very visual and learned how to build all his magnet and lego creations by watching others and looking at pictures. 

Berkley and Beau have a sister between them, a beautiful, friendly little girl named Harper.  She helps her brothers by modeling communication and behaviors for them.  She also motivates imaginative play with them.  She gets drug along to their appointments and outings, and, even though she is a generally happy girl, it gets wearing for her as well.

Having a child with special needs can be stressful for a family.  Having two can be even more so.  Both Berkley and Beau have busy, intense schedules that tend to overtake family life sometimes.  Their family has to balance the normal, everyday stresses of having three young children, as well as the additional stresses of having children with Autism.  Including behaviors, sensory issues, IEPs, various therapies and other ASD needs.  

Being a parent to a child with special needs can be very isolating and lonely, and it is easy to get into a routine that is all about your child, or children, and their needs.  So, if you know someone who has a child that has special needs, please remember to make an extra effort to reach out, whether it's a message, phone call, or a coffee date.  It will be appreciated more than you can imagine.  If you are a parent to a child with special needs, remember to take a little time to yourself sometimes.  No matter how hard it is, it is worth it and you deserve it.

The Faces of Autism/Jacey

Meet Jacey!

Jacey is a 6 year old girl who was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder at 4 years old.  She is a wonderful girl with a great smile who was excited for me to be there to take her photos and show me how she plays her keyboard!  She is funny, creative, and strong willed.  And she has such an amazing, infectious smile!

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When Jacey was younger she wasn't very talkative (I'm pretty sure that has changed, she was quite chatty with me!) and didn't seem to care whether she was around people or not.  She didn't show much affection, bumped into things a lot, and had a hard time with transitions.  Jacey had major "tantrums" that included breaking things and hitting things.  She had gotten kicked out of three separate daycares in a months time for these tantrums and behaviors.

When Jacey was 2.5 years old, she was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Persuasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder).  PDD-NOS is "a general category used to describe a pattern of behavioral differences (which may include deviations, excesses, or difficulties) in the areas of social relating, communication, and attention/interest.  Children who demonstrate a number of characteristics or symptoms in these three areas, and whose problems are not better explained by other disorders, may receive a diagnosis of PDD.  This diagnosis may also be applied if the child exhibits a variety of symptoms associated with Autism, but in an unusual pattern." *explanation taken from Emory Autism Center.*

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Jacey's parents say that their experience with Autism has gotten easier over the years as they learn more.  The first three years of her life were terrifying, not knowing what was wrong with their child and having pediatricians, friends and others saying Jacey was okay, just a strong willed little girl.  Trying to seek out help for Jacey was frustrating, going through multiple referrals, physicians not knowing how to help, and each organization telling them something different.  Trying to pick the right daycare and therapy workers was nerve-wracking, always worrying about picking the right one.

Jacey wants others to know that she does want to have friends.  She does want to be around people.  She gets frustrated when she can't quite get the words out she wants to say, so she needs people to have patience with her.  When she blows up or has meltdowns, she feels horrible about it afterward and if she could fully control that, she would.

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