When I was growing up I was Miss popular. I was everyone’s friend. I understood what it took to be “liked” and I genuinely liked everyone that I met, and I still do to this day. I had a wide variety of friends, I was friends with the band nerds, the stoners, the ASB crowd, the drama mama’s, the cheerleaders and jocks, you name it I was your social butterfly. So naturally when I found out I was pregnant with my first, and it was a girl, I began to plan her whole life for her. I think we do this when we become parents. We think of what our children will be like and who and what they will grow up to be, and for the most part, we want them to be like us, or at least get our best traits right? I envisioned her, like me, growing up and having lots of friends, being involved with different groups and different friends and just “fitting in.” Now help me raise $75,000!!!!!!
Well I had Riplee Jan. 20th 2006, normal birth, normal pregnancy. Sure I was probably more stressed out than the average woman because it wasn’t planned and I wasn’t married, but I was 22 and I had already experienced life in many different ways and I was ready, plain and simple.
Fast forward to when Riplee was 18 months old. I was living in Boston with her father, nannying 2 other kiddos, one around her age, and waitressing full time so her dad could finish school and something wasn’t right. Riplee wasn’t interested in the other kids I was watching or any kids in general. In fact she was scared. A kid would come into her bubble and she would run towards me frightened. She wasn’t speaking, not saying anything. All it seemed she wanted to do was flip through books aimlessly and stare out the window. I would call her name and she wouldn’t respond, I would try and speak with her and play with her, and she wouldn’t look me in the eyes or show any interest. The social butterfly I thought would be born naturally out of me didn’t exist. What was going on?
Fast forward to Riplee being 3. Were in the doctor’s office of Children’s Autism Center and I hear the diagnosis, “your child has PDD-NOS, pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified. What?!! That’s short for high-functioning Autism.”
I honestly never thought I would share something this personal on FB, let alone with whomever would take the time to read it, but I am. And trust me, there is a purpose.
Did you know that parents that have children with autism are 75% more likely to divorce? Yeah I fell victim to that statistic. I poured my heart and soul into getting Riplee the therapies she needed, I focused ALL my energy on her and yeah, you guessed it, my marriage crumbled. (that’s a whole other story). Let me just tell you, unless you are solidified as a team with your spouse, when shit hits the fan, if your spouse isn’t there for you to help you through it, you figure how to go through it alone and realize you are better off on your own. But now I am getting off point.
So where was I, oh yeah, the diagnosis. It is terrifying. To have a professional tell you something is wrong with your child is terrifying. There is no other way to describe it.
So I took out a HUGE loan, got her every therapy she needed and made a vow to myself that she would integrate into a typical school setting by first grade.
Did you know that without the help of The Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy,(WAAA), families that are faced with a diagnosis of Autism encounter over $60,000/year of out of pocket expenses?! Before WAAA came around, insurance companies didn’t even recognize that diagnosis, so every little therapy you needed for your kid, which would be something like 4 hours of speech therapy, 4 hours of occupational therapy per week, 12-20 hours of ABA therapy (behavioral therapy) and social skills YOU would have to pay for, and trust me, that is a lot. But because WAAA stepped up, because Arzu Forough stepped up, you might not even know how much you might have had to pay if your child got some sort of Autism diagnosis. Because WAAA exists to provide crucial resources while enhancing our community and advocate for implementation of key legislation to benefit the community. WAAA provides the largest collection of resources available in the state to children and their families living with ASD. Before WAAA, you would have to pay thousands of dollars for that speech therapist your are seeing. Now that WAAA exists and has kicked ass, you don’t have to pay a dime.
Are you still reading?? If you are then you are pretty cool. :-)
Life doesn’t happen the way you think it will, the way you plan or want it to be. But even when life decides to say SURPRISE! There is hope. I always envisioned myself to be some long haired curly barbie doll with perfect boobs and the perfect family eating family dinners every night at 6pm, but guess what?! We don’t always eat our meals at 6pm (but everything else is true…HA!)
Now my amazing Riplee girl is THRIVING. She is friends with every single person she meets, quite possibly may be the most friendly, loving, thoughtful person I have ever met. She has amazing talent when it comes to acting, music, sports, reading, writing, math and science. Is a great big sister to her 2 little sister’s, is helpful, kind, caring and beautiful. I am one proud mama.
I love my kids, I love my husband and I will fight for my family until the day I die. And I am thankful I have a family, a community, that will stick by my side and fight with me. That is what you need, what we ALL need, an honest, loving community like The Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy. Thank you WAAA.
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