Catching up with Scarlett: Autistic second grader and her super mom thrive in 2022

Their sight is set on reaching new heights in the New Year

Cheerleader Scarlett and her mom Caitee

Hi, Autism Speaks family! I’m Scarlett’s mom, Caitee. I’m writing this because as we move closer to the new year, I wanted to take a minute to look back at the many milestones Scarlett, now 7, has hit since you last heard from us four years ago. I also want to thank Autism Speaks for keeping up with her and being a constant resource for our family. We appreciate all you do.  

Scarlett went from being in a 12:1:2 program for kindergarten and first grade to going into an integrated co-teaching class for second grade, where kids with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) learn alongside general education students. This was a HUGE accomplishment for Scarlett! The program switch also included going to a new school. With all the change, we decided there was no better time to sign her up for an extracurricular activity. 

We chose cheerleading because it started late summer and included children from across our school district. She showed a little bit of nerves the first day of cheer camp, but in true Scarlett fashion, she immediately found her comfort zone and got to work. They practiced two times a week, cheered at home football games and competed in three local competitions. They placed 3rd, 2nd and 1st in their final competition of the season!  
Looking back at how far Scarlett has come since being diagnosed, I can’t begin to explain my excitement, my joy, my emotions for her. There are absolutely no words to describe how proud I am. She has always worked extremely hard. She has proved she is in her own lane, and no one can put a stop to what she sets her mind on doing. 

Read more about Scarlett’s journey in this Q&A with her mom, Caitee: 

Scarlett smiling with her hands on her sides wearing a 'Be Kind' sweater

What are some of the continued services and supports that Scarlett has received that aided her journey of personal growth? 

Scarlett receives speech therapy and occupational therapy services through school. Continuing with services has benefited her in so many ways. She is doing so well and enjoys her therapists. School is one of Scarlett’s favorite places to be. It makes me smile to know she enjoys learning and being with her friends. 

Scarlett holding a big trophy and smiling

What advice would you give to other parents of a newly diagnosed child who are worried about the future and wondering what their next move should be? 

My advice to parents of newly diagnosed children has always been and more than likely will always be: A diagnosis does NOT define your child. They are still the same beautiful child you created. The diagnosis is just a way to help YOU help THEM to become the best version of themselves. Allow that diagnosis to become your push to advocate more. To be the voice your child needs, MORE. To find and utilize the resources that are put in place to help you, help your child. Never settle. 

As a mom of an autistic child, how do you balance mom life and work life? Any advice for other parents and caregivers? 

Since Scarlett has gone back to school in-person full-time now, I have ventured back into the working world. I got my real estate license and have been working really hard to find myself again, outside of being a mom. I’m still working on finding the perfect balance. But I think that is something I will always be working on. Scarlett is always going to be my main priority. I am going to continue to communicate with her teachers/therapists and make sure Scarlett knows that I am present.  

As you look ahead to the new year, what goals do you have in place for Scarlett? 

Looking ahead to 2023, I am excited to continue to watch Scarlett thrive. We are going to be signing her up for gymnastics! She is very excited! And we will be doing cheerleading again come next summer. She has come a long way. All of her hard work and tears that have been shed are paying off beautifully. She’s proud of herself. Her confidence is amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.  

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