San Francisco Bay Area, California,USA: “We wish we had known before what to look for! Why didn’t this come up sooner? We read about early diagnosis being available, why did we have to wait until she was 4 and push the issue with the doctor and wait for such a long time to figure out what in retrospect was fairly obvious” ~Mom and Dad of 4 year old Maria
Introducing Maria a sweet little girl, loves Dora the Explorer with dark hair and dark brown eyes. She rarely looked up to talk or acknowledge when she was spoken to. She was too busy with her movies, or games.
Getting her to eat or sleep was always a struggle, as she seemed to only like French Fries. Maria could stay up all night, much to the chagrin of her parents, a young professional couple, both working to support the family, and trading childcare responsibilities. They would take turns trying to convince Maria to settle back down to sleep, and one of the two of them would be dead tired the next day, as they picked her up from day care.
Day care was having difficulties. Unlike the other toddlers, 4 year old Maria seemed to get agitated when the other students got loud. She wasn’t playing with the other kids in play time, really was fixated on seating the toys in a nice row, then interacting or any team sports. If someone had one of the toys that belonged in her neat little row, an angry temper tantrum hairpulling screaming meltdown would commence.
The day to day “chats” about Maria were enough to prompt them to chat with her pediatrician, not much they could do but observe her general interaction. Diagnosis seemed to be taking a very long time. They referred Maria for Developmental Screening. Developmental Screening and then for a more thorough Diagnostic Evaluation and at 4 years old, she was diagnosed with Autism.
Suddenly in addition to the challenges around meals and bed time, their world was changing and how to help their young daughter to “unlock” herself became their challenge. Juggling work and sick times that happened frequently, both parents were challenged with how to keep their job, and keep the behavior and speech therapy appointments.
Maria’s Dad was a sports not and suddenly his dreams of coaching soccer were transformed. He took an overnight help desk job so he and Maria’s Mom could share day care, therapy, school drop off, pick up, and doctor duty. Both were exhausted and never seeing each other.
Maria started to unlock and open up, with therapy, became more interactive, and more capable academically. She learned some things through the help of youtube videos, and could converse more regularly with people when spoken to.
Bay Area Traffic as it is, the couple were fairly limited in options for treatment, and often stayed in jobs nearest to home, because to move would require finding all new services, and it was hard enough to get Maria in the programs she had. Certainly for parents with Autism Spectrum children, the challenges were many. Local support groups were helpful, when they could go, but who had time to go to those? They started casual networking and actually became friends with a few of the parents they knew from the support group, all as busy as them. They managed to keep in touch, while managing their busy Bay Area social and community lives and business networks.