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By Jennifer Marie Dirks
Emelie was a late diagnosis for Autism. For a long time we didn’t know what our daughter needed from us. Once she had a diagnosis and we shifted our parenting style to match her needs, we were able to help her become more than what the label of her diagnosis’s are. If you ask Emelie, she calls empowerment: finding your voice.
For us, when we choose to allow her to tell people that she has autism, we explained to her she still has consequences for her actions and that it was only an explanation not an excuse for behaviors. It helps us help her work through finding coping tools to learn how to function in situations that are difficult for her. When we decided this it was because we decided to look at Autism like having other conditions that can affect life but not define you. Would you let something like near-sightedness, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or middle age define who you are? No. You would take the conditions into consideration and live life as full as you can.
The hope we found was to work closely with Em. We worked to understand what exactly was going on when she was able to tell us. Sometimes it was through observations. As a family, we HAD to learn to communicate. We had to learn to listen to each other and use active listening skills to make sure we understood each other. That didn’t always include Em, but by learning to communicate around her we were able to say, “Hey. She’s had a rough day because I noticed this happened.” We would adjust course and move forward.
Em is selectively verbal. She’s never been classified as nonverbal but there were years that she really didn’t talk to people and rarely to us. She would grunt. She would squeal. She would point. She had her own language. Yet, she was considered verbal. Now, she CAN communicate but often she needs to be ready to communicate. We live with baby steps in our house and each time she employs a coping skill or technique we rejoice as her family.
Yes, life is challenging living with a child on the spectrum. Yes, life has bad times. We however, have chosen to embrace the good times, cling to them for hope when life gets a little turbulent and Emelie’s hurricane forces hit us hard, and we still know she is more than the sum of her diagnosis and that each day is a new day. She may soar and fly or need us to catch her, but she will ALWAYS be our Emelie.
**Jennifer Marie Dirks and her daughter, Em, share their journey on Em’s Journey, their Facebook page, and on their blog, Emelie’s Voice. Em has Autism and wants people to see the world through her eyes.
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With a network of affiliates across the United States, the Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization. Their mission is to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocate for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and provide the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Contact and join a local affiliate and get involved! To find the affiliate nearest to you, click on your state below.