Sharing a diagnosis

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day, which is a day that many autistic people loathe, and some have renamed Autism Acceptance Day.  I plan to blog more about this topic at a later date, but for now, I’d like to share what I posted on facebook on Autism Awareness Day last year:

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. In light of this, Jacob and I would like to share something with you.

Our beautiful daughter, Juliette, has recently been diagnosed with being on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Autism is a huge spectrum, and the traits manifest in different ways and to varying degrees for each individual on the spectrum. As the saying goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

So, what does autism mean for her?

Simply put, it means that her brain is wired a little differently than her neurotypical (quote-unquote “normal”) peers. She thinks, learns, and perceives things through her senses a little differently. She is more sensitive to the world around her. With some extra help and support, she will thrive and succeed at anything she puts her brilliant mind to.

Please don’t ever underestimate her. She is extremely bright. You should see this girl put together puzzles! Her memory is amazing as well. She is sweet, affectionate, happy, and fun-loving. She loves to paint, sing songs, dance like a ballerina, and dress up like a princess.

Please don’t treat her differently than any other three year old. But here are a few things that may help to understand her better:

1. Juliette needs a little extra help in the areas of speech and communication. She has been in speech therapy since age two, and has made amazing progress. She is now able to ask and answer questions, and carry on back-and-forth conversations, things that often don’t come easily to those on the spectrum. We are so proud of her!

2. She has some sensory processing issues. One example of this is in regard to her eating habits. She is a VERY picky eater (much like her mother as a child). The textures of foods bother her. She tends to stick to the foods we typically serve her at home, so do not be offended if she passes up eating much of anything at holiday parties. Don’t worry, she is healthy and growing and strong!

3. Environments with a lot of sensory stimuli (bright lights, loud noises, crowds of people, etc.) can be difficult for her to handle. She may have difficulty sitting still, or have tantrums (she actually has fewer meltdowns than many people on the spectrum, but they do happen occasionally). Please try to be patient and understanding when you see us out in public. Keep in mind she is also three years old, which is a very tough age for any child!

Please don’t worry about her. We are doing everything we can to provide the best possible help and support for her. Research has shown that early intervention is the key to later success for children with autism, and we started getting help for her at a young age. The progress she has made so far is nothing short of astonishing. We began this journey by contacting Birth to Three Early Intervention, which is an amazing organization that I can’t say enough good about. Please, please, please, if you have any concerns about your child’s development, do not hesitate to contact them for an evaluation. If you have any questions, or if I can be a resource for you in any way regarding this, send me a message or email me. I’ll be happy to help!

Juliette is now attending an early childhood preschool program, where she receives speech and occupational therapy services. She absolutely ADORES school, and can’t wait to go every day. We are seeing her blossom and grow in so many ways. It is magical!

Please don’t feel sorry for me because my daughter has autism. Because I’m not sorry. It is just one part of her – like her brown eyes and amazing eyelashes. I love everything about my daughter. She may be different, but different is good! The world would be awfully boring if everyone was exactly the same. My mom always said that I “travel to the beat of a different drum” and I believe my daughter does too. Many of the most intelligent and creative people throughout history have been on the spectrum. Autism comes with unique challenges, but also some pretty amazing gifts. Please don’t look at my daughter as a statistic, as one in sixty-eight…because she is one in a million.

I have no doubt that Juliette is going to excel and do great things in her lifetime. She has a beautiful soul and a bright shining spirit. I am so lucky to get to call her my daughter.

{Image is a three photo collage of Juliette, posing in a cute outfit on World Autism Awareness Day 2015}

collage

I’m happy to say that even after one very eventful year, in which Juliette has made incredible progress, two more of our family members have been diagnosed with autism, and I have learned so much more about the spectrum, all of my words from a year ago still ring true.  🙂

I’m sharing this because a few friends have expressed interest in using my words to share about their child’s autism diagnosis.  I would ask that you please link to this blog post, so I can be credited as the writer.  Thank you!

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