Before the official diagnosis I look back at all of the signs of autism that I witnessed with Sydney. The lack of eye contact and the loss of speech were the most obvious. When I noticed that she was a tippy toe walker. I immediately thought, I have to tell Kayla and get her signed up for ballet classes. I thought I was looking at the next Misty Copeland. That was my denial in its finest.
Another sign was her attention to the details and colors in the thread of the carpet or the different patterns in the tiles. She would stare at them even if she was in a room full of people. When we would visit Auntie Shirley’s house. Sydney would love to take all of her DVD’s off of the racks and line them up. She would check them all out and then put them back. She would always seem to take a few home with her too.
Sydney needed to close all of the doors in a room even if I closed them and touch the door knobs twice. She always walked around with blankets in both hands. Some of these routines seemed different. But to Sydney they were comforting and “normal”.
Sydney pulled out all of her hair. I remember having her sleep with socks on her hands. But that didn’t help. One day we ran into friends of the family. They said that they heard that Sydney had some health challenges and was sick. But they didn’t realize she had cancer. They thought she went through chemotherapy and had lost all of her hair. I tried to explain her diagnosis. But they wouldn’t stop talking. That day I was out of energy for any more explanations.
When Sydney was in a room with a group of children, she wouldn’t interact with any of them. She wouldn’t respond to the music or singing. She always gravitated towards the kitchen set or dolls. But she was alone. That broke my heart. I felt that she was alone all day. So today when I see her initiate social interactions with people it brings me such joy.
Sydney always loved to be hugged and touched. So that was such a blessing. Some children with autism don’t enjoy physical contact. Sydney uses a weighted blanket to give her a deep pressure sensation. I also do brushing therapy with her and arm hugs. She loves to be wrapped like a burrito. It is very calming for her.
I must admit the need for her to line up her toys in rows annoyed the hell out of me. They had to be perfect. If someone knocked over one of the toys, she would give you the “stink eye”. Until this day when she reads a book. She has to cover the bottom of the page with her right hand. It is days like this that I wish I knew what her brain was thinking. How I longed for her to be able to communicate with me and find out why she needed to line up her toys in perfect rows.
There were two times that Sydney had a chance to be a ballerina. Once in Michigan she did a music therapy class. At the end of the class she had a recital and danced with a peer buddy.
Kayla is my autism advocate in training. Kayla’s senior project was a dance recital that granted a mother’s wish for her two daughters with autism to dance on stage. Kayla’s recital raised over $2000 for Autism Delaware.
We had just moved to Delaware. I was still numb from the move. I was trying to get the children settled in their new schools. I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t even think that Sydney would go on stage, let alone dance. Boy was I wrong. Kayla really wanted to include Sydney in the show and I didn’t want to disappoint her.
That night Sydney also had a chance to dance on stage in front of an auditorium filled with people. Something I didn’t think would happen for her. So in the end, I guess I had a ballerina after all.
Update: Sydney enjoys cheerleading. When she reads a book today she no longer puts her hands on the bottom of the page. She likes to dance and I would love for her to take dance lessons. I haven’t given up on that wish for her. I see her possibly being in an opening number for a play.