Elizabeth DeCarlo walks for her daughter, Audrey, who has autism. Help her reach her fundraising goal by donating here! Why do you walk for Autism Speaks? Share your story at email@example.com and we might feature it on our site!
Our family walks for Audrey DeCarlo, our 4-year-old, beautiful little girl. Audrey was a blessing to us from the beginning. Her pregnancy was high risk, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then she burst into the world a 5 lb. 4 oz. little peanut that took over everyone’s hearts when they met her.
I would love to say that it was all daisies and sunshine, but it wasn’t. Audrey cried and cried and cried. She wouldn’t sleep through the night, wouldn’t nap no matter what we did. While I was on maternity leave, we walked; that was the only time she seemed to really settle.
My husband, Kevin, lost his job right when I was done with maternity leave and he took to dancing with her and listening to Journey in the kitchen to calm her. I felt like I was a failure — some said we held her too much didn’t let her cry long enough. Looking back, it all makes sense: she need to be swaddled and have music on to calm her. Fast-forward to her 15-month checkup, she wasn’t speaking, would have tantrums because she was hungry, and couldn’t communicate in any form with us. We started with Early Intervention finally at age 2 and a half. She was speaking better, still not letting us know what she wanted or needed but at least talking.
Audrey just turned 4. I am so fearful of her starting elementary school. Kids can be mean and parents even more so, when they are faced with things they do not understand. The melt downs continue and we have to pick and choose activities knowing that sometimes we just have to pick up and leave. It’s not her fault, it’s nobody’s fault, it is what it is.
My sweet bug (as I call her) has so many talents and love to give. I hope for her that people will see beyond the obstacles and appreciate her for who and what she is. I will do anything in my power move the sun and moon for my children but the reality is that we can’t, and at some point they will fly on their own without us. My wish is that in the short 16 months until she starts kindergarten, autism will be understood and we won’t be asked why is she having a fit over something that seems so small to us.
I am no stranger to autism. My brother, Jacob, who is 20 and is a true success story will be moving to State College in the fall to complete his degree in Aero Space Engineering. This boy, who well is now a man, but to me will always be a boy, has shattered expectations. He played high school football all four years, obtained his Eagles scout, graduated from high school with great grades, was accepted to Penn State Lehigh Valley, won sports awards, the list goes on and on. He has autism, but it hasn't slowed him down. His road was not easy, and I remember the struggle when his elementary school friends decided it wasn’t cool to be friends with him. The exclusion is heart breaking for a parent, sibling, and anyone who loves someone.
So for this I am hopeful that Audrey will be a success in whatever she wants to get out of life. But I also know that it will be a struggle: it will require thought, love, awareness and more perseverance than the typical child. Every parent wants their child to have a happy childhood, with friends and sleepover and birthday parties.
With this walk, I am hoping spreading the word and that the work that Autism Speaks does will help the Audrey’s of the world; the children who are not “typical."