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Stories of Hope: A Glimpse Into The Lives Of Families With Neurodiverse Children Amanda’s Story May 2024

 

Many parents have concerns about their child.  Will they be happy?  Will they have friends?  How will they do in school, and in life as adults?  They notice things in their child, such as limited speech for their age, or the child can’t sit still and focus on one activity.  Parents share these concerns to other family members or their child’s pediatrician. Often times they are given conflicting information; some of this information is helpful and some could be hurtful.  If you are a parent who has gone through this experience, you are not alone.


There are many children who are considered neurodiverse.  They may have ADHD, a Learning Disability or be on the Autism Spectrum.  They may have other neuro-developmental conditions that affect their ability to communicate, learn and socialize with peers and adults.  If you are a parent of one of these children, life can be very challenging.  You want to get answers to your questions, find ways to help your child meet their potential and bring peace to your family.


This series of articles will give you a glimpse into the lives of families who have shared your experiences and may be able to give you guidance and hope to start or continue the journey with your own neurodiverse child.


Meet Amanda.  Her parents began having concerns when she was only 4 or 5 years old.  She met her developmental milestones on time, then began to regress.  Amanda was first diagnosed when she was 7 years old through a comprehensive psychological assessment.  Her parents were informed that she had an Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD (primarily an inability to focus), Sensory sensitivity to noise, delays in fine motor skills, and severe depression. When asked how she felt when given this information, Amanda’s mother responded, “Overwhelmed, heartbroken, and worried for the future. I also felt vindicated since I knew something wasn’t quite right and now, we were getting to the bottom of it”.  Of course, her parents had many fears for their daughter.  One fear was her well-being at school.  Other children could be mean, and many teachers did not have the understanding or patience to teach a neurodiverse student.  Her parents worried if she could continue in a traditional school environment and more importantly, “we wondered if she would be able to thrive in this busy ever-changing world we live in”.


In addition, Amanda’s parents faced many challenges.  She would have emotional meltdowns at school and scream when she was overwhelmed by noise, social situations or just the daily expectations in the classroom.  Amanda eventually learned to control her emotions at school, but would come home and meltdown, screaming and destroying her bedroom.  One of the hardest things her parents experienced was hearing from teachers and administrators at various schools that Amanda probably would not make it to middle school or high school, much less attend college.  This was so discouraging.  Amanda’s parents knew that they had to find services and professionals to help her.  She received occupational therapy to address her fine motor skills weakness. The parents hired a private math tutor who was so patient and really helped her improve her skills and confidence in math. Amanda also participated in group therapy with other girls on the Autism Spectrum, to improved her social skills.  Her parents knew that she loved animals.  So, they found a therapeutic horseback riding program (aka Equestrian Therapy), that helped with her emotional needs and to build her physical strength, as well.


There were successes that Amanda and her parents celebrated along the way.  She completed middle school and high school.  She is a talented artist and received some scholarships.  She attended the local community college and then enrolled and graduated from an art trade school, majoring in animation.  This had been her passion for many years, and she found a job in the field.  Amanda also got her driver's license.  She is now in her mid-twenties. Her parents reported that Amanda functions very well.  She drives herself to a job that she enjoys.  She still lives at home, is learning basic financial skills, and is aware of what is going on in the world.  She has a few friends, as well.   However, Amanda still struggles with socializing and communicating, although this is improving.  She continues to battle with depression.  Despite these continued struggles and need for support from her parents, Amanda has overcome so many obstacles and her family has celebrated her victories.


Finally, Amanda’s mother was asked if she could give some advice to other parents who recently learned that their child is neurodiverse.  She responded, “Have a good cry. Breathe. You will have a lot of work to do. The key will be getting the right kind of help for your child as soon as you can. Don’t wait and think they’ll outgrow it or put things off”.

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