April is Autism Awareness Month and many of you may not know how Autism touches my family each and every day. Our daughter Zoe was born with Down Syndrome and at the age of 5 received an additional diagnosis of Autism as well. Wow! We felt we had the therapies, routines and special education program dialed in for Down Syndrome and now we had to reset our entire program for Autism + Down Syndrome. However, as we say in the Fallick household – Go big or go home! What’s one more hurdle? We’ve got this!
We had been exposed to many children in Zoe’s classes with Autism and suspected there was something else going on with her, but we couldn’t put our finger on it. However, once the behavior assessment was completed, we buckled in for the additional therapies needed to ensure she could live as productive and inclusive of a life as possible and be an engaged member of the community.
She started high school this year and after a rough transition (new environments/people can be very challenging for children with Autism), we are seeing a very happy girl who loves going to school. Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments when she can fly off the handle without any forewarning. But for the most part she is an adorable, loving little girl who, like typical kids, just wants to be loved, respected and included.
Having a child with special needs changed my life forever. It can be extremely challenging and frustrating at times. But I wouldn’t change a thing. It made me a better person. I joined multiple non-profits’ board of directors, started an annual charity golf tournament that has raised more than $1M for early intervention service programs for children with special needs and give back to the special needs community whenever I can. More importantly, Zoe has taught me patience, unconditional love, and the absolute necessity to appreciate and celebrate all the wins and accomplishments in life – no matter how small.