This is Jennifer’s Story about her daughter Khole in her own word. Yes girls can have it to. That is why awareness is so crucial so the stereotyping can stop.
I had my daughter Khloe when I was 25 years old. While I was pregnant with her I started going into preterm labor at 32 weeks, but the labor was able to be stopped. I had her one day before my due date. Besides going into preterm labor, I had no complications with my pregnancy. The day I went into labor, I had no signs besides nesting which I did not know was a sign at the time. My water broke at 10 pm and I had her at 1:27 am, so my labor was very short. I never felt as much as a contraction until my water broke. For a baby born full-term she was a little on the small side. She weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces.
Khloe did not do things like crawl or walk at the time frame that was expected of her. She was behind in her fine and gross motor skills. Some things we still struggle with. She goes to OT and PT once a week to help. Since she was behind developmentally, she had an Early Interventionist she saw until she was 3. There was never any mention of Autism during those years. The sign I remember from early on is the arm flapping. She’s done it for as long as I can remember. I now consider it a part of her. I have videos of her where she is as young as a year old and she is doing her arm flapping when she gets excited. I had brought up the arm flapping with her pediatrician a few times and I was always told she would grow out of it. As she got older, it became more noticeable.
My daughter’s 4K teacher mentioned Autism to me, so I allowed them to evaluate her. I figured it could not hurt. We moved a few times when she was young, so she was evaluated at two different school districts three different times. Each time we were told that she showed signs of Autism, but not enough for a diagnosis. The last time was different though, I was told by someone that I should go see a specialist outside of the schools. I did not know there was any difference. No one had ever told me. Khloe is my only child, so a lot of things I did not know about. I took that person’s advice and made an appointment with a developmental pediatrician to get an evaluation. We waited about six months for an appointment, but during that appointment she was quickly diagnosed. Khloe was diagnosed with Autism when she was six years old. Khloe is what people consider high functioning, but she also has behavioral issues that can be a struggle at times. I think something else is going on besides Autism, but that’s a different story for another time. Khloe can make eye contact and she is verbal, sometimes too verbal in fact. I think there is a misconception about Autism. I have gotten comments about how she can’t have Autism because she’s a girl or that she can make eye contact or talk. She can do all those things, but she does have Autism. I think there needs to be more awareness about girls and Autism. So many people assume that only boys can have Autism, which is not true even though it is more common in males.
When Khloe was first diagnosed with Autism I blamed myself for not getting her diagnosed earlier even though I didn’t fully know. I think a part of me had suspicions for a while, but I was in a denial for about two years. I went into a deep depression for almost a year after she was diagnosed. I still struggle some days. She also struggles with depression and at one point was wanting to harm herself. She’s now in counseling and on medication to help. We must keep the knives put up because I fear that one day she’s going to get a knife and hurt herself. As a mother, it is heart breaking to know that your child wants to die. I think around that time is when things were the worst for us. Things are a lot better now, but we still have our struggles.
Before the diagnosis, we had friends who used to come around. After the diagnosis, the friends only reach out to me on Facebook or if it’s to invite us to a party. We don’t get invites many places anymore, only birthday parties. It used to upset me tremendously, but we’re learning to cope with it. We create our own fun for now or at least we try to. Khloe is now eight and I think the hardest part of Autism now is the loneliness. She’s at the age where she wants friends, but kids are starting to notice that she’s different. It’s mainly when she does the arm flapping that they notice. Some kids are nice about it and still play with her, but a lot are not.
I know a lot of people consider Autism a gift, but some days I don’t feel that way. We must be careful about noises since she’s sensitive to noise. If we take her somewhere too loud or where there’s too much sensory overload a meltdown could happen and will most likely happen. I wish I could enjoy a concert or play with my daughter and not have to worry about how she’ll handle it. I wish I could hug my daughter without her reminding me that she doesn’t like hugs because of how it makes her feel. Autism is hard for us and I find that we face a new challenge every day.