My 4-year-old daughter Sloane is a ball of energy. She wakes up and goes to sleep chatting. She loves to sing and run on the playground. She is a caring, social kid. Sloane met many of her developmental milestones early. She said her first words at 7 months. She recognized the alphabet at 1 year. She was obsessed with planets, which was unusual at that age. She was thriving in many ways, while struggling in others. We wondered if she had an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Mental health experts at Children’s National helped us figure out that Sloane does have autism, but that with the right supports, we could help her meet her full potential.
Care providers at the hospital have helped our family in so many ways. I worried recently that isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic limited Sloane’s ability to relate to other children. After her return to school, interacting with her friends frustrated her because of the difficulties of ASD and also the gifted part of her. This sometimes led to pushing and stomping.
Her team at Children’s National suggested a weekly social communication group. Sloane attended sessions close to home, at Children’s National Takoma Theatre location. The program helped her learn to trust her feelings and respect others. Now she’s more patient and thinks more about how her actions and words impact others. She better understands personal space.
Group therapy helped Sloane make and keep friends at school. Her teachers notice a difference. At home, changes in her behavior and the skills we’ve learned through her support team have helped our family to better understand her needs. It’s also a huge comfort to know we have a team of people getting to know and understand our daughter. For our family, mental health care for Sloane at a young age has meant helping us all: her school, family, and of course Sloane herself. We have been able to teach others that ASD does not define a child and what they can achieve.
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