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Page 37
The Rockaway Times
Yes, I consider my daugh-
ter, “artistic,” remodeling the
label, “autistic.”
Eight years ago, my beauti-
ful daughter was born.
After much fanfare, with
me screaming like a banshee
in the back seat of the car, my
mum singing at the top of her
lungs, we arrived at South
Nassau Community hospital.
God certainly knows what
one can bear, because only
after a record-breaking one-
hour labor, my little girl
popped out like a fighter,
red-faced, fists swinging,
hollering like Muhammed Ali
when he knocked out George
As I had a difficult pregnan-
cy and was on on bed rest, I
only got six-weeks maternity
leave, and had to report back
to work in the stressful fash-
ion industry. My daughter
stayed at home with her dad.
I would come from work,
spinning like a top. Rushing
to make her food, cook din-
ner for us, clean-up and re-
tire for the night, exhausted.
Weekends were the same.
Cleaning, running errands
and trying to squeeze in a bit
of family time.
The question that really
eluded me was, “Am I giving
my daughter enough of my
attention?” I just did not feel
as though there were enough
hours in the day.
She met all her initial
milestones. She sat up at
three months, crawled at
six months and was walking
like a ballerina on her toes
at 12 months. Thank God, I
However at 18 months, my
mother-in-law revealed to us
that she suspected that our
daughter had some autistic
characteristics. I remember
feeling livid. Like, how dare
you put that label on my
daughter? To be honest, I had
no idea what she was talking
about. Autism? What is that?
Anyway, to prove her
wrong, I contacted the NYS
Health Department’s Ear-
ly Intervention Program to
have my daughter screened. I
painfully remember when the
bevy of psychologists came to
our home to test her, she did
not respond as was expect-
ed. After each evaluation, I
cried. I thought they were all
so rough with her. So what if
she is not making eye contact?
So what if she is not stacking
the blocks, instead choosing
to throw them over her shoul-
der? So what if she walks on
her toes? After several evalua-
tions, she was diagnosed with
Pervasive Development Dis-
order, not otherwise specified
I felt the gamut of emotions:
bewilderment, hurt, anger,
resentment, sorrow, indigna-
tion. Blaming myself, her dad,
his family, my family, the doc-
tors, my boss, everyone, even
God! Then disbelief. These
people are wrong. My daugh-
ter is strong and healthy. At
eighteen months, she was al-
ready built like a brick house.
Picture Simone Biles’ power-
ful legs, arms and core. When
we took my daughter to the
doctor, it would take me, two
nurses and the doctor to hold
her down for examination.
And trust me, she fought us all
like Muhammed Ali himself!
Fast-forward to the present,
she is in a NYC Board of Ed-
ucation District 75 school for
children with special-needs.
She receives speech, occupa-
tional and physical therapies.
She is non-verbal, (as of now),
walks on her toes and does
some peculiar self-stimulat-
ing actions. However, I see
tremendous improvements.
I want this column to first
and foremost, be a platform
for Rockaway families and
friends of children with “ar-
tism” to share our frustra-
tions, joys and heartaches of
parenting our special chil-
dren. Secondly, to explore
what services are available
locally to boost our children
to be the best they can be.
Thirdly, to explore many is-
sues that elude us as caregiv-
Life With Our
“Artistic” Child
ers: medication, vaccines,
diet, potty training, behavior
management, financial plan-
ning for their future, and of
course, keeping our sanity.
Also, I would like to give
the general public an oppor-
tunity to learn about autism.
For example, no, autism is
not contagious. Yes, my child
is throwing a tantrum in the
supermarket, not because of
bad parenting, but because
that’s her way of communi-
Please join me in this jour-
ney as I share funny anec-
dotes, frustrations and all the
fruitful possibilities for our
“artistic” children. As most
parents of “artistic” children
would share, they are indeed
exhausting, but such a joy.
This is why when asked, I tell
people that my daughter is
“Artistic,” as opposed to au-
tistic. She is beautiful, gifted
and a savant in her own right.
Our challenge as caregivers
is to find the hook that will
engage them to have happy,
productive and fulfilling lives.
Please tune in…
By Kami-LeighAgard
112-30 Beach Channel Drive
Rockaway Park
Proudly serving our community for over 25 years.
John Lepore Insurance Agency
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