It was very apparent within the first minutes of meeting Briana, that her imagination knows no bounds. I’m so pleased to be able to share these portraits and her mother’s words with you.
From her mother, Sheri:
On November 22, 2008, my husband, Justin, and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Briana Mae Perez, into our family. After nine months of a healthy pregnancy with normal 1st and 2nd trimester screening results, never in a million years would we have expected to hear a diagnosis of Autism on July 29th 2011.
Briana was a content baby. She met all of the physical milestones babies are expected to meet, but her social and communication ones were not matching. She didn’t wave hi or bye, didn’t play peek-a-boo, didn’t look when we called her name, and wasn’t interested in playing with her older sister. I just assumed she was “too busy” to stop and return the communication. At her 2 year check-up, I expressed my concern of speech delay and her doctor felt a referral to the Birth-3 program would be beneficial. So, I got on the phone to start this Birth-3 program and after a speech therapist, occupational therapist, and early childhood teacher came to evaluate her for a few hours, they each seemed to have an immediate feeling that there was more than a speech delay going on…. They suggested getting an evaluation done for Autism. It took me a few months to pick up the phone and make that appointment. I kept hoping Briana was going to start talking and interacting more before we went to get an official diagnosis, but it didn’t end up that way. Instead, we received the official diagnosis of Autism.
Our family was in for a huge lifestyle change, but wanted to do whatever we could to help give Briana the best future. ABA therapy seemed to offer positive outcomes for children on the spectrum, so we wanted to get her in that program as fast as we could. After finding out how extremely expensive a program like that can be, we had to go on a waiting list to help fund this. It took 2 years before receiving a spot. In the meantime, she was enrolled into an Early Childhood program and worked closely with Speech and Occupational Therapy. Briana remained unverbal, but during this time, the school exposed her to a communication application (Proloquo2go) on the iPad, which she learned to use and was very helpful in most situations. It was very difficult to understand what would cause meltdowns and with the use of this application, she could at least touch a picture and we could hear the verbal output to help us get her through these frustrating episodes.
In July 2013, Justin and I finally received the notification that Briana’s funding was available and could get the ABA program started. We now have therapy in our home 6days a week, working 1:1 with Briana. Over the past year and a half, we have watched her tremendously grow in the areas of socialization and communication. She went from lining toys up, to appropriate imaginative play. She gained 2 years of knowledge after being in this program for 1year. She interacts with her siblings on a more regular basis. Her verbal communication is expanding more every day and is able to attend school in the general Kindergarten classroom with an aide, along with continued help of speech and OT. We are hopeful to see Briana’s progress continually grow.
Our family is so thankful for everything and have learned a lot in these past 4years. Without everyone’s help along the way, Briana wouldn’t be who she is today.
Sheri, mother of Briana
“The most beautiful world is entered through imagination.” -Helen Keller
Please go see Briana’s official Stories of Autism essay, and click through to read about the other participants.