Meet Cassie G., 11
She feels at a level I can’t even begin to imagine. She loves with every fiber of her being."
“Cassie finds the joy in all the little moments we take for granted,” says her mom, Chrissy. “She feels at a level I can’t even begin to imagine. She loves with every fiber of her being.”
When Cassie was diagnosed with autism at age 2, her parents were unsure what to expect. They found guidance in the Autism Speaks 100 Day Tool Kit and a community to share their journey. Chrissy attributes her daughter’s progress to early intervention – daily sessions with physical, occupational and speech therapists who, she says “taught us that we shouldn't force Cassie into our world only – that we need to learn how to navigate and enter into hers.” Now 11, Cassie is facing her challenges on her own terms.
While she might not talk much, Cassie’s creative wheels are always turning. She sometimes spontaneously breaks into scripts memorized from her favorite TV shows that seemingly have nothing to do with what’s happening around her. “Or so we think,” says her mom. “For example, if someone wasn’t careful, she will recite a script about one of her cartoon characters getting hit in the head with a snowball. Cassie communicates. Her verbal abilities may need improvement, but I think our listening abilities could stand to improve, too!”
While her mom acknowledges that autism sometimes can be overwhelming, it makes the high points all the more precious. A case in point: When Cassie’s grandfather had cancer, “We were trying so hard to get her to say ‘Grandpa,’” Chrissy recalls. “The speech therapists told us the ‘gr’ sound was difficult for someone with limited communication. Cassie surprised me one day and picked up a framed photo of him, waved and said, ‘Hi, Grandpa!’ I learned then and there to never underestimate my girl. She will move her mountains, on her schedule, regardless of textbook ‘limits.’”
Now a sixth-grader in a special-needs school district, Cassie loves coding and STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Mapping out her day, sticking to routines and wearing headphones to screen out noise help her to manage anxiety and sensory sensitivities. She adores her books, iPad and “The Price Is Right.” Like many preteens, Cassie enjoys dancing, making music on her keyboard and a playlist that includes everything from a cast recording of “Glee” to “Uptown Funk.”
“Everyone has loved and accepted Cassie and her Cassie-isms wholeheartedly,” says her mom. “We have close friends who have raised their twin girls alongside us with Cassie, and they love, understand, even protect her more than we do sometimes. It makes me truly believe that Cassie's influence in showing others a ‘different view’ is really changing the world – because little people like these twins are going to treat everyone with the same love and compassion they treat Cassie, regardless.”
A longtime participant in her local Autism Speaks Walk, Chrissy says, “The presence of all those people on walk day – to bring compassion and acceptance and celebration to Cassie and those like Cassie – that's immeasurable.”