As you may have heard, Complete Fitness Results choose Love U 2 Pieces as the organization to donate proceeds from this year’s PUMPKin Workout. Love U 2 Pieces is a St. Louis based 501©3 organization that strives to give families impacted by autism the time and support they need to raise healthy, successful children in a strong, supportive environment.
The CDC estimates that about 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here is one of countless stories of how Love U 2 Pieces helps kids and families affected by autism:
Isabella, (Bella) our beautiful daughter, is 5 years old. She was diagnosed at 3 years with Autism Spectrum Disorder. When Bella was diagnosed, it was a slap to the face for both her father and me. We didn’t know anything about autism, or sensory needs or what types of therapy Bella would need, if any. That first year was the toughest. How do we explain to our families that Bella is on the autism spectrum without knowing ourselves what it means? At this point, I dove into research. Any information about autism I was after it: websites, blogs, books, seminars, conferences….you name it, and I was there. I wanted to know more about every aspect of autism. Almost as if by having more information, I could lessen the guilt that I somehow caused her diagnosis. The journey is not over by any means, but after two hard years, I’ve discovered that knowing more facts about autism do not necessarily mean those facts reflect my daughter or who she is.
Bella is funny, quirky, sassy, and adorable. She loves gymnastics and playing outside. Tickle games and puppies make her giggle. She loves to play ‘chase’ with her younger brother, Joey. She is so much more than her diagnosis.
So, despite the diagnosis, we are a happy family. But normal for us isn’t necessarily normal for other families. Therapy and sensory diet are a part of the norm for my family. Rocking for self-soothing is normal, plus visual schedules and quiet time as allotted part of our day.
So while everything sounds peachy-keen, we still have our days. Going day by day is actually harder than looking over the big picture. Day by day: there are meltdowns, power struggles, sensory overload, school, therapy, gymnastics, potty training, etc. Big picture is: Bella is able to greet adults and peers spontaneously. She is more flexible with daily routine and is now able to pee in the potty at home. All of these things were not happening a year ago. As parents, the big picture is more sustaining and definitely more motivating.
With all the progress Bella has made, she still has a long way to go. Bella closes herself off from other people, including us, her family. This happens in different ways.
For instance, in a group of peers, you can almost see the bubble that Bella places around herself. Even when she is working to make a social connection, Bella is for the most part, disengaged. True engagement with a peer is rare, but wonderful when it happens.
Bella also isolates herself when she is feeling anxious or overwhelmed by the demands of her day. When this happens, Bella will be in a room by herself, rocking or playing quietly. The rest of the family joins her so we can enjoy everyone’s company. Bella immediately leaves the room so she can continue her alone time. For a long time, I was concerned about this, wondering to myself, “Is this normal?” It’s taken some time for me to realize, that yes, it is normal. Everyone has ways to unwind after a long day. For Bella, having alone time is essential to her well-being.
When we registered Bella for a LoveU2Pieces social skills group, I was hopeful. The group was run by two therapists and included children from Bella’s own age group. Each meeting had a fun theme that all the kids really enjoyed. The cooking theme especially was fun for Bella. She got to ‘cook’ her choice of play food and serve it to the other children. When my husband picked Bella up from one particular session, Bella was playing a tickle game with one of the other kids. He was stunned; she was engaged with another child….all on her own! By the end of the 5 week social skills session, Bella was spontaneously greeting adults and peers. Her eye contact was vastly improved. These are skills that have continued since last July. I was impressed with the amount of progress Bella made in such a short amount of time. This is why our family will always participate in social skills groups run by Loveu2Pieces.
As time goes by, it is understood by both my husband and me that socialization is a skill that will take time and practice for Bella. As a family, we participate in many social activities. Socialization is a way of life. This is why it is so important for Bella to continually work on her social skills. If Bella is unable to socialize, she will be severely limited in a lot of aspects. Considering the big picture again, my husband and I think about her long-term future. We want Bella to be independent after school. We want her to have the opportunity to go to college, get a job, and have normal, healthy relationships. We want her to be successful and happy. Not in spite of her diagnosis, but despite it.
Love U 2 Pieces’ mission is to be committed to giving families living with autism spectrum disorders the time, support and opportunities they need to raise healthy, successful children in a strong, supportive environment. They provide opportunities for children on the autism spectrum to develop skills in the areas of social interaction and leadership. They also give information and activities for parents of children on the autism spectrum that will support their efforts in raising their children in a strong, supportive environment.
Bring your family to Complete Fitness Results on October 25th for a great workout, fun festivities and to support a great cause!