Meet Kaitlyn Y.
Kaitlyn Y., 21
The minute Kaitlyn was diagnosed, the wheels were in motion and we were figuring out all of the ways we could help
Each morning Kaitlyn hops in the car with her mom, Julie, to head to their do-it-yourself craft studio franchise that offers individual and group classes to create the latest on-trend designs on customizable decor accessories.
Diagnosed with autism at age three, working alongside her mom enables Kaitlyn to experience life in the workforce and take on more responsibilities as she navigates the transition to adulthood. It also allows her to combine two of her favorite things: crafting and making people smile. Seventeen years ago, her parents weren’t sure what the future would hold for their daughter. Her father, Greg, said he and his wife vowed to do everything in their power to provide their daughters the guidance and resources to reach their fullest potential.
Today, Kaitlyn, who lives with her family outside of St. Louis, still faces significant challenges and needs around-the-clock care, but she’s consistently breaking barriers thanks to services that began shortly after she was diagnosed and continue to this day. Her sister, Alyson, 23, is earning her doctorate in occupational therapy at Boston University with the goal to one day positively impact the lives of people just like her sister.
“We are action people. The minute Kaitlyn was diagnosed, the wheels were in motion and we were figuring out all of the ways we could help,” said Greg. “The result was 40 hours per week of applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational and physical therapies, developmental therapy and even music therapy. She also has severe food allergies, so that was another hurdle to clear. But we always had the mindset of doing whatever it takes to ensure she is living her life to the fullest.”
Learn about Kaitlyn through her own words in this edition of Spectrum Spotlights.
At what age were you diagnosed with autism?
When I was three.
When did you realize what it meant to be on the spectrum?
When I was 10.
How did that realization impact your life?
I realized I was smart.
How does your autism make you unique?
I like to listen to music.
What struggles have you faced as a result of your autism?
In what areas has autism helped you excel?
I am super friendly.
What is your proudest moment?
Getting to work with my mom at our shop.
What brings you the most joy in life?
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? Why?
Chicago, to see my aunt and uncle and their dogs.
Who are your biggest supporters & how have they touched your life?
My sister, Alyson. Ann Deddens (my tutor). Jesse (my job coach). Mike Darling (my gymnastics coach). Nancy Itzkowitz (my personal trainer). Ashlee (my ABA Therapist). They all help me to be more independent.
Best advice you can give to someone recently diagnosed with autism?
Listen to your parents.
What are the five words that best describe you?
Nice. Music. Toys. Computer. Happy.
Learn more about Kaitlyn from her parents, Greg and Julie.
In your experience, how important is early intervention?
Critical. Kaitlyn was diagnosed just before she was three but was already receiving services.
Did you realize something was different about Kaitlyn before her diagnosis?
Yes. At Kaitlyn’s first birthday party we noticed she was not doing the same things that her peers were doing that were her age. We mentioned it to her pediatrician and got her involved with first steps by the time she was 15 months old.
Tell us about some of the things Kaitlyn struggles with as a result of her ASD.
Awareness of her surroundings, no sense of danger, significant developmental delays, inability for self-care, difficulty with problem solving, etc. She also gets stressed when her schedule changes or becomes unpredictable.
Please share some of the things at which she excels.
Making people smile, starting conversations, memorization, she works very hard, she loves to interact with people, she is great on a computer, has a strong work ethic, tries her best and is eager to please.
What makes you most proud of Kaitlyn?
Her constant happiness and her drive and determination to accomplish tasks she puts her mind to. We are proud to have her work with her mom at our local business and see the pride she takes in her work.
What is one piece of advice you can give other parents who have a child/children on the spectrum?
Build a village of people that will help support you and your child. We have been so fortunate to have amazing professionals guide us through this journey. We have learned so much and have met the most amazing people that have become like family to us. Also, connect with other families that can share in your experiences and give you helpful advice.
How has Kaitlyn’s relationship with her sister, Alyson, played a part in her progress?
Kaitlyn and Alyson have a beautiful relationship. They are extremely close and bring out the best in each other. Alyson learned patience from Kaitlyn and learned to be flexible. Kaitlyn learned trust from Alyson. She knows that Alyson will always look out for her and help her live her best life. Alyson is getting her doctorate in Occupational Therapy and she attributes it to watching the OTs [occupational therapists] interact with Kaitlyn and the impact they made.
What comes to mind when you think about all of the years participating in the autism speaks walk?
We have been involved with Autism Speaks since its inception. The walk is something we look forward to every year. The families we have met through Autism Speaks have inspired us and given us so much hope. It is amazing to be surrounded by friends and families that share, support and understand your child and family circumstances. We have learned about so many resources from other families and the resource fair at the walk. I will never forget at one of the first walks we attended, Kaitlyn was standing in front of a bounce house, she looked at me and said, “It’s a party for me.”
What are five words that best describe Kaitlyn?
Hilarious, smart (she has an unbelievable memory), loving, friendly and sensitive.