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My most amazing gift

This is my beautiful, intelligent and artistic daughter Madeline. At 5 years old she was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, ADHD combined and Sensory Integration issues. She is in regular classes, receives OT, Speech & Social Skills training at her school. She also takes non- competitive Gymnastics classes once a week which is excellent in helping her with focus and coordination. She has intense interests in Dinosaurs & Meteorology. She loves playing online games and lately has been drawing up a storm in her sketchbooks (this is a new hobby). She would prefer not to interact with children her age, but will most of the time, and is still working on maintaining eye contact. She has an incredible memory and is an AMAZING reader! She has come a long way since her diagnosis and talks about wanting to to college to be a Scientist. She is a very sweet little girl and does not let her challenges hinder her. In many ways, her diagnosis makes her all the more special in many good ways. For parents out there dealing with a new diagnosis, I know it is hard, it is scary and it is heartbreaking. But fight hard and make sure you can get your child access to every resource possible to help them. We love our little girl, our youngest, the only girl out of 3 children, her "normal" is our "normal" and we love every amazing thing about her!

Anonymous
Atlanta, GA

Always A Tear Never Defeated

Born January 17, 1993, a beautiful little girl, Kala. Milestones were not where they should have been. Kala is now 22 years of age, a young woman, having come so far and yet so far to go. Never give up.. My daughter has taught me things. Kala has no speech and uses a spring board lite to communicate. I found perfume free dye free products have helped with behaviours. We sometimes tend to forget when our kids cannot talk we must make sure they are physically comfortable. I use lactose intolerance milk. We avoid spicy foods. I have been blessed in that Kala loves food and will eat most anything. She sleeps very well. Never wandered. We have had our share of behaviours. Getting rid of one bad behavour only to get another. Probiotics have been her best friend and really makes a differance. I keep an air cleaner in her bedroom. We have occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and behavour programming. Never give up. We are blessed, after all God gives these children to special parents. yes we are special. God Speed.

Dolores

Dolores B Lindo
Sudbury, ON, Canada

Learning Patience

My daughter Carleigh is 4 years old. She did not meet the milestones that her older sister did and she was a much more difficult eater than Ashleigh was too. While I thought something wasn't quite "normal" about her lack of vocabulary or the inability to say mama or dada at 2, I listened as others tried to convince me that Carleigh was just a delayed talker and that she would come around. Ashleigh, 2 years older, was showing signs of delay and we had her tested by the county school system. During that home visit, the evaluator noticed some concerning behaviors that Carleigh displayed. She had Carleigh tested as well, the results showing severe developmental and speech delays. Carleigh was diagnosed as nonverbal autistic with sensory processing disorder by a developmental pediatrician. I'm glad I had answers, I was happy to have a plan and I felt guilty for all the times I became frustrated with a sleepless night, a random meltdown or a battle at dinner time. My life changed with that diagnosis. I became a mom that could tolerate an outburst. I no longer lose my mind with the late nights of trying to calm my little girl down. I have learned from Carleigh and her teachers different ways to communicate with her and the frustration is starting to disappear from all of us. Because of her, I am more aware of the population increase of these special children and have started training to be a therapeutic horseback riding instructor so I might be able to help other children on the spectrum. Carleigh is currently in school and making huge strides. She's using a PECS book to communicate, follows a visual schedule and is starting to learn how to use an AAC device. Of all the success she's had, the best one by far was the moment she started saying mommy and daddy which was just within the last couple of months. It was a long wait to hear those words, but a wait well worth it.

Lindy Knapp
Spotsylvania, VA

Analytical Aspie: Wife, mother and Me

My name is Dana Long Affrunti and I have Aspergers. I am a wife, mommy and BCBA. Growing up, my love was animals and behavior. I was the go to girl if you wanted to find the perfect breed of dog to match your life. I was the teen to call if you wanted a dedicated caretaker for your dogs. I could often be found in the swamp looking for frogs, tadpoles, snakes , followed by younger neighborhood kids. I grew up with near a zoo in my bedroom including several snakes a green iguana, lizards, mice, guinea pig, chinchilla, a dog, turtle, and a sugar glider. Although I am an observant social investigator/learner my success can be attributed to my dedicated tenacious mother, who never stopped setting me up for success then ‘kicking me through the door’ as she liked to say. I was also fortunate to have a great group of girls in my girl school troop who were always there for me. While I did most things different than my peers I graduated valedictorian of Brighton MI high school. With my Fletcher, service dog/co-pilot in life, I graduated from Hope college in Holland Michigan. It was my intention to go to vet school to become an applied veterinary behavior specialist but instead I found my true calling in behavior analysis and earned my masters degree from Southern Illinois University in Behavior Analysis and Therapy. My husband is understanding of my quirks and loves me all the more for them. My kiddos are my joy! Empowering individuals and families through applied behavior analysis is my passion.

Dana Affrunti
Springfield, IL

Two Brothers

We have two boys. Our first son, Caleb, is gorgeous with pale skin, dark hair, and blue eyes while our second son, Toby, is a handsome dusty blond guy with amber colored eyes. Caleb is what most people consider "high functioning" and is going into Jr. High in a general education classroom, and Toby is going to be attending kindergarten in a special autism classroom for those with moderate to severe autism. They will never go to school together, more due to their age gap than their autism, but they learn together at home every day.

Words flow from my oldest son's mouth like water from Niagara Falls, and for my youngest, they have to be coaxed and drawn out like collecting dew on a desert morning. As their mom, I can tell you that both experiences are awe inspiring.

They are the perfect pair. Despite their age differences, they enjoy watching animal documentaries and Blues Clues with each other. When my youngest speaks a phrase that perplexes us, my oldest knows exactly what he is referring to. Caleb is so proud of every new thing that his baby brother learns, and Toby worships the ground his big brother walks on. And while sometimes there will be crying when Caleb wrestles too roughly with his little brother, or when Toby sometimes ruins his older brother's things, they have a deep love and understanding towards one another.

They are both perfect contrasts and mirrors of each other and, as brothers tend to be, even though they are on different paths in life, they are still traveling together.

Sam G
Sanger, CA

Connor's Story

December 23, 2008 was the longest day that ended in a happy healthy baby boy being born. From the week we brought him home he was the best baby, always on schedule but then we started to notice a few things. He wouldn't look us in the eyes, as time went on he started crawling and then a few months later walking but we still didn't hear the words.

His doctor had made the decision to put him in Early Childhood Intervention. Still saw more complications with his tantrums and mainly his high sensory needs. As I started college and put him in daycare, it was an everyday event of him pinching cheeks or choking his friends and lots of energy. I know it wasn't his fault but in the end they told us that in order to give the best care for all of his friends, he could not stay at his daycare. We tried to put him in the local head start program but was denied.

So we put him in Pre-K. Still pretty much and everyday struggle with pinching and choking his friends and very hyper, so we decided to go to our first specialist, who concluded that Connor was just a boy, with sensory needs. We agreed but still had a hunch of something more. As more of the incidents happened more often, we knew something else was going on. We took him to another specialist and finally some of the puzzle pieces were coming together, ADHD was diagnosed and medicated. This year he started his second year at his school and his teacher again had problems with him acting out so we had our first parent conference to see what we needed to do to get Connor the best education. They just gave us a couple of tips for his schooling hours and just said give it time. It wasn't getting better and neither were his grades, he was still considered at the Pre-K level. So we had him tested for Autism and he was diagnosed with severity 2 Autism just recently.

Kirsten Smith
Lubbock, TX

This is my Artistic Amazing Aspie teenager Haylie

I wanted to take a moment to spotlight my amazingly artistic Aspie teen, Haylie. She was an angelic baby who would sit for hours playing with toys as she classically lined everything in rows and being my first child along with my mother passing away suddenly when she was 2 1/2 months I truly felt she was my angel baby. She has always been mature for her age and scary smart! It wasn't until she started kindergarten that things started surfacing that made teachers take notice as well as myself. She even sat frog style in her seat till she was in 6th grade. Every year I would have to explain her meltdowns in the mornings difficulty concentrating etc. And every time I was told to be tougher on her, she's being stubborn or lazy etc. She also being a quiet unassuming kid that loved nature and bug life(especially caterpillars) was an easy target for a bus stop bully. And not communicating to me the situation I was truly clueless until a friend's child mentioned it to her and it was brought to my attention. I dealt with it swiftly but, people always thought Haylie was the odd ball in evety situation along with comments from teachers "Don't be so bad all the time and maybe they wn't be so mean!" Honestly she wasn't bad so much as off in another world and she didn't fit their mold of how an average child learned! Finally when middle school came into play and after they ignored my demand for her to be teated in 3rd grade because they qouted her IQ at 126 at only 7 yrs old. I took her to a neurologist and he immediately diagnosed her high functioning Asperger's syndrome. I wanted to kiss the doctor. He finally validated myself to teachers who had labeled her difficult etc. She now has her struggles but is thriving and has grown into her artistic abilities seamlessly! Even did a public service announcement on herself to stop people from bullying others. Maybe they have autism! Always a proud mom of her!

Colleen
Manahawkin, NJ

My Life With Asperger's Syndrome

Hi there,

I’m Nick and I have a mild diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, which I knew about since I was about 4-5 years old, but did not get diagnosed with it until I was 12 years old. But just because I have Asperger's doesn't mean that there's stuff I cannot do. I took upon myself to try and be the best at everything that garnered my intrest and to show people that ‘Aspies’ have the ability to do great things in life.

You see, I've done a fair bit with my life, keep up with what I've done if you can: I'm a black belt in karate and have done the form of karate I practise for over 12 years, I’m University Graduate (B.A in Drama and Media combined), I'm an amateur stand up comedian (the biggest gig I did was in May for Teenage Cancer Trust and the late Stephen Sutton, whom I met and shook hands with), I work for an Indie Video Game in my home of Birmingham, England, as both a voice actor for their games and as their marketing researcher, and I am an advocate for Autism Spectrum Conditions and support for them across 3 different charities in 3 different forms each (being put down as a media talker for the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom, being a public speaker for another, and a blogger for the last one). Phew! Thanks for keeping up with all that!

The point I’m trying to get across is this: having Asperger’s is not a bad thing, I view my Asperger’s as more of a gift than I do a negative thing, because there are MANY positives to have the condition itself, you just have to see that and use those same positives to do a lot of, again, great things with your life.

So it just goes to show, if an ‘Aspie’ like me can do these great things, what can other people with Asperger’s and other forms of Autism do? My fellow ‘Aspies’, let’s show the world what we can do.

Rock and Roll Baby!

Nick Hall
Birmingham, United Kingdom

My Little Brother, Kayden

Kayden was born June, 30th, 2004. He was still in the Hospital , just born no too long ago when all of the sudden his stats dropped. My mom stayed a extra day in the Hospital, the doctors did not know why his stats dropped he went home a fine healthy baby. As he got older, he was not catching up on words like he should have, and certain sounds and noises bothered him. Sometimes when my mom would call his name he would not even respond. After a little while he would respond and everything would be okay. When he was 3 things still were not as well as they should of been, so my mom taught Kayden a little bit of Sign Language. One time, our carbon monoxide alarm went off. He did not move or flinch at all, just kept playing with his toys, my parents then knew something was wrong. They took him to get a diagnosis, they said he needed tubes in his ears and that the hearing played into why he was not talking as good or well as a normal 3 year-old should have been. So he got his tubes and he started speech therapy and went to preschool and school struggling, but getting through. As he matured my parents both noticed that his little baby fits and he was 8, and we also had a new little brother named Daxton, and as Daxton started maturing they became fast friends. As his hearing improved he still was very socially awkward, everything was black and white to him, he never could understand sarcasm and he always had to be on time and always needed a date and time. My mother then decided that her being a special ed teacher, recognized this as some things kids with Autism do, she did the testing and guess what? He has high-functioning Autism. It was not a surpriser to anyone but we still loved him all the same. He got bullied, gave the kid who did it a black eye, and has helped other boys with Autism.

Kamryn Alley
Wellington, UT

Jayce and Adi

Our journey began, ironically enough, in April (National Autism Awareness Month), when our 2 year old son, Jayce, was diagnosed with severe Autism, SPD, and remains today, at age 3, as non-verbal. We knew there was something a little different about our boy, but we saw the easy-going lovable Jayce and that was all that mattered. He qualified for therapy at 1 year old and little did I know he probably would have been diagnosed at that time too. I was not ready to accept it and denied the services requesting an evaluation 6 months later…I knew he would grow out of “it” whatever that “it” may be. I changed Pediatricians and immediately I could see the concern in her eyes, I was then terrified. I started my research at that time and have been advocating for my little guy ever since. He is the most precious, sweet, tender, angel and if anything he has given me a second life. I feel like his diagnosis has shown me how to be a more compassionate, open-minded, humble person and for this I will always be indebted to him. He is my hero in so many ways. His diagnosis has also opened our eyes to a few of his older sisters traits and characteristics. We now understand and see stimming in her and know that she is on the high end of the Spectrum herself. Her name is Adilynn and she is in the pic as well. She is in mainstream Kindergarten and is excelling beautifully.

Jayce is now in Preschool with an amazing set of teachers and therapists who just happen to gush over him every day. He is purposeful, makes great eye contact, stays on task, and listens (just when you think he isn’t).

I love my babes to the moon and I would never dream of changing them. Every day is a new day and we will use each and every one of those days to grow and learn together. This journey is ours as a family and we couldn't be more proud of our Super Jayce and Adibear!

Jessica Dowell
Terre Haute, IN
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