Every time I look at this precious face I feel like the luckiest mother in the world. Isabella is very gentle, loving, and creative. Her imagination is boundless. She is a talented artist and drawing dragons is her specialty. She loves to listen to rock music and dance music. She has an amazing sense of humor and her laugh is infectious.
Isabella was just diagnosed on the autism spectrum about 6 months ago. Her late diagnosis was frustrating for her dad and me as we watched her struggle for years. It was clear early on that she was different from other kids her age. She was a late talker and didn't say much until she was about 2 1/2. She was often extremely upset by loud noises and was a very picky eater. Because Isabella has two cousins that are autistic, it was always in the back of our minds that she could possibly be on the spectrum. But her pediatrician wasn't worried and brushed off our concerns that there might be a problem.
By the time she was four years old, Isabella was reading fluently. In school, she spent more time talking to her kindergarten teachers than her classmates. One teacher described her as “wise beyond her years." During recess if she wasn't talking to a teacher she would usually just play by herself.
Our growing concerns led us to pursue formal testing. Isabella was tested in 1st grade and again in 3rd grade. She tested in the highly-gifted range both times but her autistic characteristics were not convincing enough in either case to warrant a definitive autism diagnosis. The fact that she made good eye contact, was well behaved, and could carry on sophisticated conversations about topics that were of interest to her masked her profound sensory issues and social awkwardness.
Middle school has been the hardest time for Isabella as she has felt socially isolated. But our persistence to find support finally led us to the right doctor who could recognize her significant yet subtle autistic traits and confirm her diagnosis. Now she is participating in a PEERS social skills program, is meeting more kids like her that she can connect with, and is looking forward to getting a fresh start at a new school in the fall.
Having a daughter on the spectrum has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Lisa, Isabella's mom
Daniel Island, SC