The Story of Heavan and Our Family’s Struggle With Autism


Heavan was born four weeks premature with a heart condition. She was in NICU for four days and on heart medication for her first eleven months. Around the time she came off the medication, her personality began to change. She would scream for no reason, wouldn’t make eye contact, and was only content when being held tightly in a dark, quiet room.
We were told that she was probably just having withdrawals from her medication and to wait. Months of dealing with the constant screaming, crying, and aggressive behavior were wearing us out, and the doctors said they didn’t have an answer. I would cry for hours, wondering why I couldn’t help her.

After two years of just “dealing” with her behavior, her pre-k teacher suggested we get her evaluated. She hadn’t said a word at school in four months. After being her evaluation we were told she was dealing with Sensory Integration Disorder and mild autism. The diagnosis was devastating. We had just had our third baby, and having three children under five was stressful enough. But we eventually found a light in the darkness.

We moved to Texas when Heavan was four and found a wonderful therapy center. It took another year and several misdiagnoses before we learned Heavan was indeed autistic. We also learned our youngest has Sensory Integration Disorder. We were taught how to brush her, do joint compression, and what triggers to avoid. Heavan is now a happy, healthy seven-and-a-half year old. She’s in the gifted program at school with an IQ of 138. She has a best friend and she’s learning what her triggers are and gaining coping skills. Don’t get me wrong, we still have meltdowns, screaming, and days that nothing goes right. Heavan has autism… but autism no longer has Heavan, or our family.

Rebekka Reilly
Texarkana, TX

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