Ava is 5 years old and has autism. She was born healthy and met all developmental milestones on time or in advance. At 18 months, her Nana expressed concern that Ava was not making eye contact with her, would not answer to her name, and sat in the floor for 45 minutes taking plastic forks and spoons out of a container and putting them back in. She suggested that she might have autism. Although in complete denial, we inquired with her pediatrician. He dismissed the concerns, which was exactly what we wanted to hear. At 2 years old, we enrolled Ava in a Mother’s Day Out program for “socialization”. When asked, her teacher said that Ava was “singular in person and tasks”. Other family members expressed concern as well. With continued denial, we made another call to the pediatrician and insisted on an evaluation just for peace of mind. December 2012, at 2 years 9 months, we got the diagnosis…Moderate to severe autism! Ultimate devastation does not begin to describe how we felt. It literally took about 6 months for it to set in and for me, as her mom, to finally become a warrior for my princess! After 2 years of a wonderful school, tons of therapies, and some special medical treatments, Ava has made huge progress! We still have a way to go!
Olivia is 3 years old, and the younger sister of Ava. She, also, developed typically meeting all of her milestones on time. At about 15 months, we felt that she might have a speech delay. At 17 months, she had her 1st of 3 febrile seizures, which were severe. Her speech therapist was concerned that Olivia, too, was showing signs of autism and suggested we have her evaluated. At the same time at home, we noticed that she was having staring spells and were concerned that they might be seizures. After tests and neurology visit, our suspicion was confirmed, she was diagnosed with Absence seizures and started medication immediately. The psychologist performing her autism evaluation, diagnosed her with developmental delay and speech delay and recommended that we re-evaluate in 6 months after she had been on her seizure medications. Instead, we enrolled her in the same school and therapies as Ava. in addition, we started the same medical interventions with Olivia as well. At the beginning of this journey, Olivia could point, grunt, and make the “BA” sound. She is now talking in full sentences. She is still slightly delayed, but would have a greater delay if we stop the therapies she is receiving.
The financial burden of school, therapies, and medical expenses are unreal. Their dad works 2 jobs, and I work full-time as well. There is no family time and there is no relationship time for my husband and I. Having 2 children with special needs has rocked us physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and our marriage as well. Although chronically exhausted, we push forward to pursue full recovery for our precious daughters and give glory to God along our path for all of our blessings!