The Rivera Family
Jacob Rivera - Autism Parent
My life took an unexpected turn in 2013. I was 23 and now a freshly new dad. Ariana was born April 24 of 2013 and she came out perfect! The moment she was placed into my arms I just knew we would be inseparable!
Ariana's Autism journey is different from most; she was reaching all of her mile stones right up until she was 1 year old. Ariana had a little trouble walking and talking. She would often sleep with her feet above her head as she was double jointed, but we didn’t know why she just wouldn’t talk. She would make some sounds and have her “squeel.” We went through a transition period where our pediatrician was leaving and we had to find a new one. When Ariana hit about 2 years old, we got her into first steps, this is when she started to showing more signs of Autism.
Ariana was more energetic. She started walking more on her toes and flapping hands and had sort of a “routine” when she would wake up. Once she woke up she would go to the living room, turn around and go into the kitchen, then turn and go back into the living room like a ritual. Ariana would constantly open and close doors and other repetitive behaviors and she still was non- verbal. After doing some research and talking with her psychiatrist at the time we decided we should get her evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I wish I could say this is where we could have stopped searching and started getting her the services she needed, but sadly it's not. When she was tested, they confirmed she was Autistic. We were overjoyed as we now knew we had a starting point to get her into services that she needed. Before this, Ariana was just “delayed” and at this point was extremely hyper which sadly insurances won't cover or provide services for aside from speech therapy. Then we got a call no parent wants to hear after about three weeks. “We are sorry, but because she didn’t line up toys or have repetitive behaviors in the testing process, she isn't really Autistic.”
We took this news with grace as we don’t want to force anything on our child just because she is nonverbal and “different” and we spent the next two years treating her ADHD and doing speech therapy. We were often met with “she is too hyper to do anything with” and her then psychiatrist said that there was nothing more he could do aside from all the medicines we had already tried. We were lost at this point and ended up going to Nashville and Louisville for inpatient stays. Ariana was starting to be more aggressive towards herself and others but she was also only about to turn 4 at the time. Finally, we decided to get another opinion after talking with her current pediatrician and a nurse practitioner at her local daycare. We got in and did the evaluation with Dr. Brame and Ariana was diagnosed once again with Autism. We were skeptical at this point and I had legitimate book of questions (if you know me you KNOW I legit had a book of questions all written down). Was she sure? What's different this time from last time? She assured me that Ariana was in fact Autistic, that repetitive behaviors come in different forms, and it's not only about “lining up toys.” Ariana opened and closed the same drawer about 5 times, only played with the same toys, hand flapped, etc. We finally got the answers we needed to help her.
Ariana is a fun, happy, smart, and loving child. She truly doesn’t know a stranger. She is the most loving person and soul I know! She has taught me to be a better person and no matter what, to never give up. She has made strides thanks to all her wonderful teachers, and therapists.