Imagine the birth of your first child, the joy of your life. She’s perfect, beautiful, and yet, something feels off.
“We felt it in our hearts that something just wasn’t right,” remembers Melanie, Anastasia's mom. “She wasn’t reaching milestones. She would not respond to her name. She was extremely irritable. She didn’t make eye contact and couldn’t talk.
“Her communication was screaming and pointing. She walked in circles on ‘tippy toes’ and hummed melodies, but no words.”
When Anastasia was two-years-old, Melanie and Thomas, Anastasia's dad, would learn that she had autism.
“From that moment on, we spent every second we could learning about what autism was,” recalls Melanie. “We wanted to know how it affected Stasia, and most important, how we were going to get her help!”
The family chose to attend Easter Seals Midwest’s intensive two-week Parent Training Program, which is just one of the programs offered through our Autism Services division. Parent Training provides families impacted by autism with hands-on behavior therapy sessions, valuable information about autism and the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of their child.
“It was at this moment that it really all clicked for us,” explains Melanie. “It was comforting to be able to talk to other families in the program that were going through similar experiences. They could relate, and that provided a sense of relief every parent wants to feel when anything affects their child.”
After the completion of the training program, Anastasia received behavior therapy, music therapy, individual support and occupational therapy from Easter Seals Midwest. The family also receives ongoing support with her individualized education program (IEP) at school -- Anastasia's now in the sixth grade -- to ensure everyone is on the same page in order to encourage, rather than hinder, her growth.
“We knew it would be a long, hard road ahead, but we really discovered how much hope we have for Stasia,” says Melanie. “We will never give up on her or stop providing her with opportunities to grow.
“The Easter Seals Midwest staff goes above and beyond the call of duty time and time again,” says Melanie. “They even came to Stasia’s school for autism awareness presentations to educate her peers.”
Anastasia continues to overcome obstacles and amaze her family and the staff members with whom she interacts because of her hard work and determination. Music therapy has been a key component in Anastasia’s success with gaining communication skills. She has taught herself the keyboard, and she loves to act and sing. She even will be performing in “Aladdin, Jr.” at her community academy.
“I could not be more proud of Stasia. She is smart, talented and has a heart for her community,” says Melanie. “She loves to give back and has been involved in her local Girl Scouts troop since first grade. She joined the Girl Scouts' FIRST Robotics program, an opportunity for girls to be introduced to engineering, and participated in an intensive running program at her school. She never ceases to amaze her father and me.”
With the help of Easter Seals Midwest's services, Thomas and Melanie have figured out ways to reach their daughter. They find that learning to think like her has allowed them to help her in more ways than they could ever imagine. Anastasia is finding her place in the world and remains determined to meet her goals.
“There are no words to express our gratitude for all of the help we have received -- our dreams for Stasia have become realities, and the sky is the limit,” dotes Melanie. “Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for all that you have done for our family, and so many other families in Missouri. Easter Seals Midwest is truly an organization that cares about the community.”
Anastasia was our Snowflake Art Contest winner in the 11-15 age group with "Frozen, featuring Elsa and Anna":