- Cullman, Alabama


April 26, 2010

Living with Autism

CULLMAN — Emma’s Story

Jessica Fillmore never thought she wanted to be a mom, but when she found out she was pregnant, she was excited.

Soon after her daughter’s birth,  Jessica felt something wasn’t right.

“She was a little over 10 months old, she was supposed to start eating Stage 3, more textured foods,” she said. “She would physically make herself sick and would throw-up when we tried to feed her.”

This was the beginning of a long journey. Jessica would not only become the mother of a special needs child, but would also found out more about herself than she ever realized.

The dreaded day when the Fillmores would officially hear the news came a year ago.

“April 15 last year, I will never forget it,” she said. “I was expecting her to tell me this was normal and she asked me about five questions.”

She had not heard much of the disorder before her daughters diagnosis.

“The only time I had ever heard this was on Oprah when Jenny McCarthy was talking about her son,” she said.

After the initial diagnosis, the Fillmores were bombarded with doctor’s visits and literature about autism.

Emma Grace was also diagnosed with sensory processing disorder.

Sensory processing is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."

Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

Not only was she diagnosed with autism and SPD, but also Turner syndrome.

Turner syndrome is a chromosomal condition that describes girls and women with common features that are caused by complete or partial absence of the second sex chromosome.

Today, Emma is doing well and attended Todd’s Friends daycare at the Cullman County Center for the Developmentally Disabled.

She has therapy and is learning to speak.

“She is doing well and we have been told she will get better,” Jessica said. “She is really just a little puzzle piece.”

Jessica tells others that may be in her situation to just go with your feelings.

“If the doctor ignores you and you feel something is wrong, keep pushing it.

“For so long we put her in a shell and now we are trying to come out of it,” she said.

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