As you guy are well aware at this point, I like to keep things incredibly raw and real on this platform. I pride myself on my ability to connect with women from every walk of life in a way that is bold and at the same time delicate. When I realized I was pregnant, my blog took a turn. I started sharing my story, breaking down my fears and dreams for my pregnancy and my baby and once that happened, I was introduced to an entirely differently audience of women. I have met some amazing women, some of which have been right under my nose for years, literally years. For example, Channelle. I went to high school with her and honestly we did not run in the same crowd, not even a little bit (I blame the marching band thing but hey, don’t hate). What’s very interesting is the connection we have formed in the last few months over simply being…mothers. I have learned a lot about Channelle and her family, her adorable and beautiful family. Channelle has a great husband and two daughters Olive and Ivy (I know right, how stinking cute), one of which was diagnosed with Autism a few years back. Upon Channelle accepting and learning the diagnosis, she dove in to this new lifestyle head first. Her story is so incredibly inspiring and is a true testament to my feeling that us moms, we are all out here together just trying to figure it all the hell out, no matter what life throws at us.
I asked Channelle if she would share her story on my blog because I feel that if I have the opportunity to connect women with other women who may be struggling, I want to do that. Over here at the blog, we are all about uplifting inspiring women and Channelle is certainly one of them. As a new mom I feel it is important that we are given all the facts from an unbiased and relatable place. While I personally do not know this struggle, I hope that for some of you, any of you, hearing Channelle and Olive’s story will inspire you and perhaps even fill you with hope. You can follow all of their story on her blog AusomlyOlive.com.
Olive was almost one when we noticed something was ‘different’ about her. As a baby she barely cried, seemed uninterested, and seemed to enjoy playing alone. I took that as a sign of her being independent and content. It was right around her first birthday when we began to notice behaviors like flapping, rocking, and her lack of eye contact. She didn’t respond to her name, and the biggest red flag was her lack of speech.
My husband mentioned to me that he thought she might have autism. My initial response was that it was absolutely was not autism.
I honestly even got a little angry he said that. Olive is bright, social, and has no sensitivity. It wasn’t until I took the time to read about autism, that I realized just how complex it was. I learned it was a spectrum, and a life long neurological disorder. The more I read, the more I realized she actually was a prime example of classic autism. I can’t lie, upon realizing this I felt cheated and angry. I spent many months crying and scared for the future and we hadn’t even received a diagnosis yet.
Honestly, it felt like I was mourning the loss of my child. I at the time was pregnant with our second child, and went from excited for the future to just plain scared.
At her one year checkup we brought up our concerns, and was told she was meeting her milestones in a timely manner, so there was no reason for concern. And that she would talk when ready. You would think that would wash away our concern, but it didn’t. We insisted on getting a referral for speech therapy, and an autism evaluation. Within 6-8 weeks we had met with a social worker who then had set us up with a speech therapist. From then on we had a therapist come out to our home once a week for speech. As time went on the signs became more apparent.
Occupational therapy was added to her services, and after months of various tests and a full evaluation, we finally had a diagnosis- classic autism.
As hard as this was to hear, by this time I had come to terms with the fact she most likely had autism. So it wasn’t a shock, it was actually a relief to finally have a diagnosis. Olive was two when things seemed to take a turn for the worst. She began having meltdowns, and would become unconsolable. I couldn’t understand what was happening or why. There’s nothing harder than watching your child suffer and not know how to help.
Little things like her shirt becoming wet from the rain, transitioning place to place, or a break in routine would set her off.
Olive would sometimes get hurt or have a bad fall, and would have no reaction or a very delayed reaction to the pain. The need for routine and her sensory issues became much more troublesome as she got older. Luckily, with the help of her therapists, we began to get a much better understanding of autism, and what that meant for Olive. We discovered she wasn’t a ‘picky eater’. She in fact has sensory processing disorder, a coexisting disorder that is very common among those who have autism. She eventually learned some sign language to help her communicate with us. What this meant she was able to tell us when she was hungry or thirsty. Or when she was hurt or sad. Up to that point, everything had just been a guessing game. Being able to understand her needs meant we were able to start potty training, and working on getting her caught up. While we didn’t see much progress in the beginning, in time she slowly worked her way up to speaking jargon, and finding ways to avoid or cope better with sensory overloads. It’s been a long journey, but she’s made tremendous progress.
My daughter is now in kindergarten and is 6 years old. She is in a regular classroom setting and receives services through the school, and has an I.E.P. (individualized education program). This year she is spending over 90% of her time in the classroom, where as previously she was taken out at times for special help. She walks her little sister to class independently, every day. Now she is able to brush her teeth, and get dressed by herself. She is fully potty trained, and is starting to read and write sentences. This year there has been zero issues transitioning for class to class.
As of last year, Olive is officially ‘verbal’. And her speech is able to be understood by other people now, not just her immediate family. These past few years have been filled with so much promise and growth. I am so grateful.
In the beginning I didn’t expect much progress. I knew that autism affected everyone differently, but upon hearing my child was ‘severely’ autistic, I genuinely lost hope. Do not lose hope. Autism is a fight that deserves to be fought. I promise you for all tears of sadness, there will be even more happy ones. Having a child with autism isn’t easy, but if you don’t stop being angry you’ll only see the bad. You’ll miss all of the good, and the beautiful child that’s sitting right in front of you. Your child is still the same child they were before the diagnosis.
If I could give any advice it would be to always follow your gut, always. To never stop fighting for your child, leave no stone unturned, To accept the diagnosis, ignore the prognosis.
Don’t let someone’s else’s idea of autism define your child’s potential and abilities. And lastly fight for services for your child. Unless your child’s autism is easy to spot, getting a diagnosis will be an uphill battle. And a diagnosis is what opens the door to early intervention, and other services. If your doctor isn’t taking you seriously- find a new doctor. This is your child’s future we’re talking about. A child with autism will some day become an adult with autism. You want your child to be as prepared as possible for the future. The first few years of a child’s life are when the majority of the brain’s cognitive and language development is formed. This is why early intervention is so important. The longer a person goes without support or proper services the harder they become to reach.
Early Signs of Autism
Not responding to name when called – Isn’t responding or may seem like they’re ignoring you.
Resistant to change – May become upset when there’s a change in plans or a break in routine.
Repetitive behavior – A person might spend extended periods of time doing the same activity over and over.
Lack of speech – A large number of people on the spectrum are non-verbal or use other means of communication.
Lack of eye contact – Might not look directly at you, even when speaking or being spoken to.
Inappropriate laughing or crying – Might laugh or become upset and you might not understand why. Just know you see their reaction, not what is causing their reaction.
Spins self or other objects– This is can be a form of stimming and used to regulate their nervous system.
Repetitive speech/play – Scripting (example:repeating parts and segments from a movie) and echolalia (receptive speech, sometimes a word or phrase, or even noise like a high pitched screech) are all common behaviors with people who have autism. A child may partake in the activity over and over again, even if there is no actual outcome. Lining up toys is also common.
Delayed motor and fine motor skills – Body awareness and trouble with fine motor tasks. May appear clumsy and unaware.
No real fear of apparent danger – Some people on the spectrum are prone to unexpectedly wander, and this can be dangerous especially around cars and bodies of water. Always be aware of your child’s surroundings.
Thank you so much Channelle for sharing your story and continuing to share your story! If you guys wanted to reach out to Channelle privately head to her IG @Channbert or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!