The broad range and spectrum of autism can be puzzling for many to understand. I found that despite my experience with volunteering and working with many students beginning in high school through adulthood in various environments that it’s different when it hits closer to home. I loved working with children and adults with special needs who were autistic in teaching dance,music, reading books, and causal interactions. It was a bit different for me when I was a parent of a toddler that wouldn’t really interact with her other siblings, stare blankly at the wall many times, and have meltdowns for which she couldn’t communicate to any of us what was going on. She rarely slept at night, and she was more than just picky when it came down to mealtime. I learned more about autism with my daughter Paris. Autism awarness and advocating hit closer to home now.
The Same But Different
I will never know if the fact of being born at 24 weeks at a just a pound along with an over 3 months NICU stay had anything to do with our daughter having autism. She and her twin sister both fought for survival, and they share many battle wounds from various surgeries in their will to make it. Her twin sister’s actually had more procedures, yet Payton along with her developmental delays soared in improving. We begin early intervention when both twins turned age one, but I could still see that there was something unique about Paris.
A Mother Knows
I saw the signs a few months after the girls were released from the NICU that Paris was a little different in her behavior and interactions than any of my other children. She was a sweet and gentle baby. She honestly didn’t cry often or at all. It was rare to hear her fuss. Her twin sister made up for her crying though! We would feel so lucky to catch any glimpse of her smiling. She mostly just stared. The twins were almost four months when they were released from the hospital, and we were advised to adjust their age according to their actual due date in developmental stages by our pediatrician. I noticed that although they were almost 9 months Paris wasn’t crawling. She also didn’t show an interest in her twin sister. I was told of the magic of the “twin bond” that supposedly all twins should have. Payton loved to kiss and hug her sister, but Paris acted as if her sister never existed most times. She felt safe in cuddling up with her father and I, but she didn’t really pay attention to any of her siblings. Her behavioural habits continued. Her sister made strides within their home intervention services of physical,occupational,and speech therapy that they shared three times a week. Paris kindly and quietly stayed in her world. She made her 1st steps while I was teaching a music class. The kids and I were so happily surprised when she walked in our little music circle. She was turning two in less than a month, and I like any parent was a bit worried. I spoke my concerns to my husband, their pediatrician, and their therapists. I reached out to a few family and trusted friends. I received at first mixed reviews and feedback. Later, in time most begin to see what I observed as well in our daughter’s behavior. I truly feel like a mother always knows when there is something going on with her child.
I noticed that Paris’ other siblings were very protective in caring for her from the day she came home. I don’t believe that they favored her over her twin sister, and I honestly feel that in their little way as young children they knew to shield her with a guiding love. Her nickname giving by her big brother is “Smoochies” because of her full lips with a kissable pout that she would occasionally land on you with as our southern terminology call it some “sweet sugar” on the cheek. Her older sister cared for her like a priceless China doll. Her twin sister would often try to interact with her. She would help pick up things Paris needed such as a diaper or blanket. She did her best to show her that she was here by her side.
I See You
It took awhile for Paris to truly in consistency interact with her twin sister, but when she did it was a beautiful connection to see. They shared some moments, but most observed that they played separately. My other two daughters would play together, and Paris would sit at a distance from them. She would prefer to sit alone or with the adults. Her twin sister Payton has always had a caring and nurturing way about her. She loved her through it all, and she gave her a little pet name herself in communicating. Paris social skills have improved drastically since beginning a half day program where they both receive special needs services. We saw the improvements at home. It was like a light bulb went off for her to see not only were they sisters,but she saw that they shared an even deeper connection. Payton was elated to have a friend to play with who was equally important in being her twin sister. It was a smile of joy and relief from the three of us. They’re inseparable. I now feel tag-teamed by them often in their shenanigans.
I am in awe daily with the amazing strides that our daughter has accomplished in just a little of a year. We count the little things as well as the big things. I celebrate her trying new foods, seeing her focus with all her might in holding her utensils in eating a meal, and seeing her for the first time in ballet. Her teacher shared with me that she noticed Paris had autism, and it was her first time as a teacher having a student such as her. She said that she was astonished that Paris has many more advancements in learning her information in communicating her knowledge in counting numbers, colors, shapes, and the alphabet than her peers. She recognizes all her letters and numbers. She has many site words down as well for which she reads out loud. She can count to one hundred if you help with providing a base number following the number 50. In her classroom she is allowed to use a touch screen computer that aids her in learning her skills. Paris has many friends in her classroom, and her fellow classmates adore her.They are very kind to her from observation. They help her out if needed so willinly that they often argue for the simplest of tasks. They give her hugs, hold her hand, and warm goodbyes. She smiles ear to ear in acknowledgement of their gesture and shouts, “Goodbye to you. See you later!”
We are still learning about autism and the various spectrums. We are happy that we went through the process of early intervention and testing. There is nothing to be ashamed of in having a child with autism. They welcome you into their world, and you in turn make them feel safe to know they are welcomed in your world. The two of you learn together with the understanding that the generic way in doing things won’t apply with an autistic child. We hold hands together as a family uniting in connecting the puzzle pieces together.