Embracing The Fact She Is Different

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Most nights I'm awakened and cannot get back to sleep easily, sometimes I get frustrated with my sleepless nights and other times I stay up thinking to myself, "wow, we have come a long way". That means something, I didn't give up, and I didn't let it beat me down, so what if someone else could feel the same way? She was 18 months old, my oldest, and I know most parents try to tell you not to compare your kids to others, but this I just couldn't ignore.

 I couldn't help but notice how other kids her age were spontaneously uttering "mama" "dada" or at least saying "no", the most heard word for most babies starting at the age where they are able to at least grab things. I kept hearing "oh, she will talk when she is ready", "nothings wrong with her, just give her some time" and that's what I tried to do. Two more months go by and I'm still not getting anything out of her, completely nonverbal, I'm convinced, I needed help. A best friend of mine reached out and got me the help I needed, with her mom being an Occupational Therapist, just to see if we could base where the issues were coming from. At that time I wanted to cry and I did later on, during the 3 hour ride back home after a week of visiting family, our first evaluation scored her to be at a 9 month old communication level at the age of 20 months old. All I could think of was "where did we go wrong?" Here I was 8 months pregnant with her baby sister, and feeling very unsuccessful and disappointed, "how do I bring another child into this world and I can't even get the first one right?" But I didn't give up, many nights of crying, researching, and seeking resources all at the same time of receiving early intervention services to help. Although there was still something that I felt wasn't being grasped about her I continued at the pace that we were going. At her second birthday party, July 2016, we had a bunch of children over, and I definitely wasn't the only one to spot out that she barely acknowledged the other kids around her. She played more by herself and along side the others, but never once interacted with them directly, and unfortunately she was still completely nonverbal. Two years old and her word count was 1 as compared to the average two year old with 250-300 words. I made it my ultimate goal to find out why. As of November 3, 2016 she was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) with language impairment. After a few examinations and evaluations, and migrating from pediatrician to pediatrician, the answer I never once thought to hear, was finally starting to make itself present.  I was so relieved to finally have answers, because there should never be a time when a mother should ignore uncommon issues about their child. Waiting too late to advocate for my child would probably have put us in a more difficult situation, but now I am more than grateful to be able to share our story with whoever will listen. She is autistic, and communication impaired, but yet she is one of the most loving and caring little person in the entire world, she is almost 3 years old, she is my sweet baby girl, she is Harmonee (Har-Mah-Nee). I want to introduce you to what makes her so uniquely different, she has: extreme food aversion, stimming habits, nonfunctional play with toys, super hyperactivity, obsession with sameness of items or repetition, hand flapping, squealing from excitement, limited interaction with other children her age, inappropriate reaction to certain emotions, not always answering to her name, over stimulation and a few others. All of what I had been seeing since she was able to walk was finally being explained and I am still learning a lot, but since the diagnosis we have been seeing a lot more progress in her using more words and trying to be more social with her peers. Although, there are still a few challenges with behavior, expressive and receptive communication are still being worked on but so much progress with the word count and I owe that all to God. After our youngest was born, I stepped out on faith and decided to not go back to work, hoping that it would allow the extra time and energy I needed for both of my children's special needs since daddy was always busy with school and work. Especially now with Harmonee having Interventions and Therapy sessions weekly to assist with her development, and baby sister is becoming a toddler so it's been quite a journey as a single parent but I owe everything we have thus far to my wonderful and fully motivated husband. He has been a very big provider and supporter for us. Since graduating with his Bachelor's in Food Science last year he spent 2 months seeking for a full time job in his field while working a part time job but after no luck, the bills were just piling up and we were determined to get better insurance, so he decided that joining the Army National Guard was the next step. He has been away from us mostly for work since before the diagnosis and the last 6 months have been quite an experience for all of us and there is nothing that I regret. 

Harmonee has been such an inspiration and has taught me more than I think I could ever teach myself. She inspired me to receive my Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology so that I can pursue my dreams as a Pet Assisted Therapist for children just like her. Animals are therapeutic and I can't even find the words to describe how much Harmonee loves animals. I learn so much about how she views to world and I can only imagine how others just like her may feel standing next to a typically developed peer. Not being able to express herself the way others can is very frustrating for her at times and likewise for myself because it's hard seeing her get so raveled up when she can't find the words to talk. I've been her voice for quite some time now and it has inspired me to share it with the rest of the world. iAutism is how we have been expressing our differences. iAutism is our t-shirt line designed to deliver educational messages about autism and be a voice for those who may not be able to use their own voice at the moment. The name came from dealing with so many months gaining control over our lives and trying to customize them to be fit for each other. Whatever worked out best for her, usually it's what worked out best for me. As long as she was happy and content, then so was I. Anything to prevent a meltdown from frustration or anxiety, as well as, trying to find ways to help her communicate with us on a daily basis whether it was sign language or just nonverbal gestures. Today, society has its way of making certain disorders a stigma and I realize I never want Harmonee to grow up believing that not being "Normal" is wrong. iAutism is all about embracing the fact that being different will be accepted. So we wear autism with confidence!

We would love for you to visit and like our Facebook page for more of our blog posts and how we share our journey: https://m.facebook.com/iautismforher/

Pareece Gibson Croshon
B.S. in Animal Science
Department of Food and Animal Sciences
Alabama A&M University

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