Meet Scarlett D., 4
She is breaking a stigma. She is changing people’s thoughts and minds and does it all by just being herself. I’m just so proud!"
An autism diagnosis can be overwhelming. But with early intervention, there are no limits to what can be achieved. Scarlett is living proof of that.
She was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 17 months old. This early diagnosis allowed her access to the vital services and resources that would not only empower her to reach, but easily surpass, all expectations. It was also her parents’ unwillingness to accept any limitations for their daughter that has helped her to overcome every obstacle that’s come her way.
Today, thanks to daily sessions of physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as a dedicated team of teachers, therapists and aides, this spunky 4-year-old is leaps and bounds ahead of where her parents were told to expect her to be shortly after her diagnosis. Her mom, Caitee, recalled one of the lowest points of her daughter’s journey.
“We were recommended a developmental pediatrician, who many families we know had used. We were in there for 20 minutes before being told ‘not to bother with the hearing tests because she’s never going to talk.’ Right to our faces we were told: ‘If she’s not talking by now, I wouldn’t count on it.’ This doctor made us feel as if our beautiful, perfect, amazing little girl would never be able to do anything.”
“Fast forward to 2019 - she doesn’t stop talking! She is in her second year of Pre-K. She knows her ABCs, numbers, colors, shapes- you name it - she knows it. If there is ever a thought that Scarlett cannot or will not achieve something, she immediately proves everyone wrong. She is a fighter in every sense of the word.”
Learn more about Scarlett’s journey through the words of her mom, Caitee.
Tell us about some of the things Scarlett struggles with because of her autism, and please share some of the areas where she excels.
Scarlett’s struggles can vary. She has many sensory issues. Feeding and different food textures are very scary to Scarlett, so she goes to feeding therapy twice a week to work on that. She has moments where large crowds overwhelm her, and sometimes she has a hard time communicating her wants and needs. But she is showing so much progress in these areas. She loves animals and numbers and letters. She’s starting to read words. There is no limit to what Scarlett can do!
In your experience, what has life been like as a mom with a child on the spectrum?
Life as a mom with a child on the spectrum has humbled me. It has made me more aware, more patient and has pushed me to limits I didn’t know existed. It has brought me to my knees praying that I will live forever to be able to ensure Scarlett is always taken care of properly and shown the same amount of love I show her every day. We have good days and we have bad. There are days where I want to cry locked in the bathroom because a meltdown has lasted two hours or more. It has made me a fighter. I push for the absolute best services, the best providers. I make sure Scarlett gets the best of the best. It has made me an advocate for my child. It has made me her voice.
How important is early intervention?
Early Intervention is SO IMPORTANT on so many levels. In my opinion, getting Scarlett the help she needed, as early as we did, changed everything. It made every word that doctor said irrelevant. It proved them wrong and helped Scarlett become the amazing, thriving, smart girl that she is.
What was it like seeing Scarlett star in a national television ad campaign for Autism Speaks?
It was truly surreal. I’ve always thought that Scarlett would be someone who changed the world, showed people that it’s ok to be different. And being picked to be a part of a national ad campaign, it just proves my thoughts to be true. She is breaking a stigma. She is changing people’s thoughts and minds and does it all by just being herself. I’m just so proud!
What are five words that best describe your daughter, Scarlett?
Inspiring. Courageous. Smart. Strong-willed. Amazing. She’s my hero.