The Faces of Autism: Meet Jacey

Meet Jacey, a funny 7 year old girl that was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old.  The past few years when I take Jacey's photos for this project, she is hamming it up, performing for the camera.  This year was no different! Well, except maybe a few extra nerves because of the people that were around! You can read last year's story HERE.

dear me photography bismarck photographer girl in karate gee pursing lips together

Jacey was quick to most milestones early on, she rolled over and crawled early, and walked right on time. Her parent's did always notice she was difficult to soothe. They went to the doctor several times to figure out what was going on, and were often told she is just a strong willed little girl. At 2.5 she still wasn't really talking much and was having severe behavior issues at daycare, so much so that she was kicked out of 3 daycares in a span of 1.5 months. Luckily they had a wonderful friend, Renee Feist, who was helpful in guiding us to where to get some help. Jacey's parents started at her pediatrician who did not have much of a clue on how to make any determinations. Renee guided them to utilize both West Central and Anne Carlsen out of Jamestown for evaluations which helped to begin their journey in the right direction. They feel blessed to get Jacey into daycare and therapy with Enrichment Gardens and things have gotten better and better with each year!

Jacey has a wonderful memory and vocabulary. Her greatest strength is her amazing sense of humor, it is difficult to not find yourself laughing when you are around Jacey. She loves to do arts and crafts and scientific investigation.  

dear me photography bismarck photographer girl in karate gee doing karate moves

Jacey can struggle with her behavior when things becoming frustrating. She doesn't always filter her opinions which can lead to hurtful things said to others at times. She has really progressed as she works hard in therapy, but can struggle with personal space and understanding friend situations at times. She is a very strong willed girl so she isn't always willing to compromise when the task is undesired.

Over the past year, Jacey has learned to ride her bike proficiently and has taken up Karate at ATA in Bismarck. In previous years her parent's would have felt nervous about her attending skills required for Karate, but she has done amazing and grown so much in her patience and coordination. As she gets older they notice the pace of school has become a bit of a challenge. Jacey has the ability to keep up with her peers, but sometimes the changes and transitions are happening so fast for her. They are seeing as she progresses through 2nd grade she is becoming better adapted to transition and being responsible for getting homework done out of school without a struggle.

dear me photography bismarck photographer young girl with fists at hips in karate stance

From Jacey's parents about having a child with autism:
"Their minds are amazing. The way she makes connections and remembers things constantly catches me off guard. Even when it appears that she isn't listening or paying attention we often later find out she is hearing everything and remembering everything. Jacey will often tell me that she feels frustrated when people don't understand her because sometimes she is unable to find her words. I am excited to see what her future unfolds, as each year she shows us all of these surprising and creative ways her mind works. Sometimes being around friends can get overwhelming, but she loves and begs to have playdates, she loves to be social and around other people even if it means she may need a moment or two of quiet to herself. We are so thankful for the team of people we have in our lives from family, friends, therapists, and our Anne Carlsen staff, as well as the amazing people at ATA. It truly takes a village and we love our village!"

Jacey wants others to know that she is just like any other kid. She hopes people can give her time sometimes, as it can take her a while to get her words out. She wants people to know she loves being around friends.

dear me photography bismarck photographer girl doing sidekick

 A 2010 study by the University of Wisconsin found that martial arts and autism go well together; autistic children were a lot more social with their peers, their physical coordination improved, as did their self-esteem. So for those of you out there looking for some out of the box things for your kids to help with coordination, discipline, respect, socialization, among other great benefits, I know Jacey has a recommendation for a great place!