2014 Photographer Index_Cotugno_Steven 2014_crowe_hannah
I have no doubt that Cali will change this world.
At the age of four we were told that it was time to walk away, that Cali was never going to be more than what she was and that based on her severity that we needed to seriously consider institutionalizing her. The doctors assured us that she would never have friends, never go to school, never speak, and her behaviors would only worsen. The doctors were wrong.
Today Cali is a vibrant eleven year old. She is a grade level above her peers, participates in numerous sports and activities, has tons of friends, and dreams of being involved in theatre, TV, or film. Not only does she not have any of the behaviors she used to have, but she is one of the most compassionate people I know, and enjoys helping other children and adults who have special needs. She has spoken at schools, and for scouting events and loves to share videos about autism to help others understand. She is an advocate in her own right, knowing that when she shares her story that it may help other see that there is HOPE and that no child should be written off or underestimated.
With the support of loved ones and through biomedical approaches, Cali has proven that nothing can stop her. We still manage her health and nutrition, she still struggles with loud environments, and she suffers occasional seizures; so the lingering damage is there but it won’t hold her back from whatever it is that she wants to do.
I don’t know if Cali will end up a producer or actress or if her dreams will shift as she ages; but I know that the world is hers without any limitations given to her based on some diagnosis. I know that she will keep giving people hope and inspiring them to seek answers, keep providing love and encouragement to her peers, and keep proving the world wrong. She is an inspiration not only to others, but to me. I am proud to call her my daughter, and proud to see that this world has people like her to remind us that we are all stars, and we all shine in our own way.
She is changing the world. One little star at a time.
Shannon, mother of Cali
St. Charles, MO