My beautiful, bright-eyed daughter Gabrielle, or Ellie, started speaking at 10 months and had an 800-word vocabulary by 18 months. Then, at 21 months, she stopped speaking and pointing, and her eyes looked “empty.” She started screaming for everything she wanted, and began to fixate on her fingers, lights, fans and music. We knew something was very wrong, but the pediatrician we consulted told us to wait it out. We even brought up the idea of autism, but were told that since our daughter did speak and was a girl, it was highly unlikely that she had autism. Our pediatrician had never heard of regressive autism—and he was trained at a top children’s hospital.
Flash forward 11 years, and my now 13-year-old is three inches taller than me and is bright-eyed once again. Through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, she has regained a lot of skills she had lost, and continues to learn new ones every day. She is verbal, and very good at telling us what she wants and needs, but she struggles with fine motor skills, basic reading and math, group learning, and social cues and conversation. Ellie goes to school for a half day and ABA therapy for a half day. She loves middle school and being with all of the kids. She gains more and more independence every day, and enjoys fitness classes at our local community center, and hanging out with her cousins playing music and games. She is an avid swimmer and loves to ride horses, but would prefer to live at the beach instead of just visiting.
Our family is blessed to have Ellie in our lives, and we are better people because of her. She is a great teacher!