Eight years ago, she came into this world at rocket speed and full of energy! She has not slowed since. Sophie has a light about her. Like the way a back-porch light draws in a crowd of flighty moths; Sophie attracts attention wherever she goes. She is our bright light. Her energy radiates about her and her smile and giggle are infectious. She has big movements, a big voice, and a huge personality.
Sophie was a typical baby, easy by most accounts. She was smiley and personable. She loved napping on her Mimi’s tummy every afternoon and peeling the paper from Crayola crayons. We always joke that God must have been giving us a little break for what was to come! We never suspected that anything was not typical with her. We simply thought she was taking her good ole time learning to talk. Right before her third birthday, at her pediatrician’s insistence, we completed the ADOS test and got the news that Sophie had autism. The signs were all there. We had just overlooked them.
It was scary and overwhelming. To learn that your child may not ever say her name, play tea party with friends, graduate, get married, have a child of her own…it’s scary. But now, five years later, we are lucky enough to see Sophie’s autism from a much different perspective. We see her light! We see the beauty that she sees in the everyday things around her that we all pass busily by. We see her enthusiasm for life. We see how much her lack of convention gives her the freedom to embrace her wants and dreams. We love that about her!
Sophie is dramatic! She does not have much functional language, but boy can she find other ways to get her ideas across! My personal favorite was the day that she insisted that she was a milkshake! She even painted her face to match…one white cheek, one brown cheek and a big red circle on her forehead. I can only assume this was vanilla, chocolate, and of course a cherry on top! She always keeps us entertained!
However, with the good comes the bad and there have been too many times that Sophie’s light seems to grow dark. She gets overwhelmingly sad and frustrated. Her OCD becomes debilitating. She picks at her skin until tiny bumps become deep wounds. She screams and throws her body to the ground as if she is suffering an internal torment that she cannot escape. These days are filled with constant meltdowns. These are the times that we try desperately to ward off.
We live in Bellevue, Ohio. A small-town smack in the middle of Toledo and Cleveland. There isn’t much here, except for my husband’s construction company where we are both employed and a half dozen pizza shops.
When we began seeking services for Sophie years ago, we quickly learned that we would be driving…a lot. The closest ABA providers were over an hour away in either direction. So, we got on the road and started driving Sophie to Toledo to see how she responded to ABA, Speech and OT. After a few months, we knew that we had to keep it up. I stop working so I could drive her to school. The 120 mile drive each day was wearing not only on Sophie, but also on our son, our family, and our bank account, but we were seeing progress. She stopped throwing her food, she would hold our hands instead of falling to the ground screaming, she said her first word! Big things were happening!
Three years and countless miles later, we made the decision with the director at her school, Capable Kids, to transition her back to our local school district for kindergarten. That fall, Sophie started school at Bellevue Elementary. We felt comfortable that Sophie would be safe and well attended. The school had appointed a full-time aide to be with her all day. There were so many positives. She loved the other kids, she loved the playground, she loved her teacher. But there were also so many downsides. She was beginning to get more aggressive; her behaviors were escalating; her academic skills were not progressing and the changes of routine on school breaks were a nightmare. Her light was dimming, and we could see the beginning of the darkness that we tried so hard to push off. When COVID hit in March and virtual school proved to be noneffective for her, we knew we needed to make a change.
Thanks to the Avenues for Autism Suzanne Tyner Fund, we were gifted funds to help cover daily transportation costs to take Sophie back to Capable Kids. Sophie thrives with the structured routine there and in the few short months since her return, Sophie is happy. Our girl is smiling again. Her light is back.
The Avenues for Autism has been such a blessing for our family. Our sweet girl has been able to maintain the routine that keeps her light shining bright and I am now able to return to work and provide for our family. This is the season to give thanks and we are forever thankful for the gift that Avenues for Autism Suzanne Tyner Fund has given us. ❤️
Lauren (Sophie’s Mommy)