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.
By Tiffany Green
BREMEN — When her son was two and a half, Kay Gibbs knew something was different.
“Geoffrey was my fourth child,” she said. “I knew he was different.”
At this early age, Geoffrey was showing signs of autism. Although always verbal, active and social, something just wasn’t right.
“He just seemed to regress,” she said. “He started echoing everything. I just knew something wasn’t quite right.”
Kay began the task of doctor’s visit and doctor visit, trying to find answers.
“In the meantime, we had no idea what was wrong,” she said.
Kay had not heard much of autism, although her sister showed mild signs of it also.
“We started seeing the doctor and nothing seemed to work,” she said. “So many things that he was doing were classic signs of autism.”
Kay said they tried medicines, but after a while them just stop working.
“We didn’t want to put so much in him,” she said.
Geoffrey attended Clay-Chalkville Schools and was able to graduate with his class. Soon after, the family found a home in the Bremen, where Geoffrey could enjoy life outdoors more.
He was able to attend another two years of school at the Cullman County Child Development Center.
Now at age 22, he and his mom and he are alone. His dad died in a tragic car accident two years ago and Kay had to take an early retirement to be home full-time with her son. She said this was very traumatic for her son.
Kay said some days and worse than others, and can be very stressful.
“I am not clear on what causes it,” she said. “I did all the right things.”
Geoffrey is currently enjoying horse back riding just for children with autism. He and his mom also attend the autism support group in Cullman and will be at the walk for the first time this year.
Since they now have a few open acres for Geoffrey to walk, Kay said he loves to exercise.
“He has lost 20 pounds walking around the corn field,” she said.
“I like to jump on my trampoline too,” Geoffrey said.
Geoffrey recently got a golf cart that he and his mom ride.
“I get to drive it,” he said.
Kay said the main problem right now is being repetitive and repeating everything.
“He has overcome a lot of fears,” she said.
Kay said she would tell others with children with autism to be understanding.
“It’s a two fold, buckle your seatbelt, you are in for a ride,” she said. “It’s both rewarding, but very trying and heart breaking. You have been blessed with a special child. You must have a lot of patience.”
What is autism
The autism-spectrum disorders encompass a wide range of symptoms, from social awkwardness to a complete inability to interact and communicate. Here, six men and women speak about living with an autism-spectrum disorder.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.
In December 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 110 births in the United States and almost 1 in 70 boys. The issuance of this report caused a media uproar, but the news was not a surprise to the Autism Society or to the 1.5 million Americans living with the effects of autism spectrum disorder. Nonetheless, the spotlight shown on autism as a result of the prevalence increase opens opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve these families facing a lifetime of supports for their children.
Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs).
Know the signs of autism, early detection can save a child.
Autism is treatable. Children do not "outgrow" autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
‰ Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:
‰ Lack of or delay in spoken language
‰ Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
‰ Little or no eye contact
‰ Lack of interest in peer relationships
‰ Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
‰ Persistent fixation on parts of objects
‰ Tiffany Green can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.
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