Rock star instructor, Sheillah Dallara, can be found in the studios teaching amazing classes at our studios, while balancing a busy life as a wife, mother and advocate for Autism awareness. She has opened up her heart to share her story about how this disorder touched her personally. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, read her story and leave her words of encouragement (and don't forget to come out to our charity rides on Sunday, April 27th!):
Alexander was born on March 1, 2010. He was born a happy and healthy baby boy. It wasn’t until his 2nd birthday when my husband, Aaron, and I started to notice a change in behavior and mood in little Alexander. It became more obvious to us when our youngest daughter, Felicity, began talking and repeating words, she seemed more in tune with her environment and the people in it. She was 1.
We were worried and brought our concerns to our pediatrician. It was dismissed as a “he’s a boy and boys typically develop slower than girls” and “let’s check his hearing”. But I knew, my “mommy intuition” kicked in and I knew it wasn’t as simple as this. Alexander had started to play by himself, and seemed content in his own world.
What hurt the worst was the day Alexander stopped talking altogether, and eventually I stopped hearing three little words every parent wants to hear from their child, I love you. It was devastating. As a mom, when your child starts to talk, hearing those three little words is something you cherish. Losing that broke my heart.
Autism was a foreign word to us. We came up on it as we researched, “late talkers” and “poor eye contact”. But the more I researched, read and learned, the more I began to realize Alexander may be autistic.... I stopped reading through all the endless articles and blogs, i felt numb. Could it be? Could we have a child with special needs?
We knew we had to do something. But what it was, we did not know. Our first steps were to change pediatricians and get a different opinion. I remember watching Alexander as he played with the doctor during his appointment and how well he interacted, and for those few minutes I hoped the doctor was going to tell me I was wrong. Nothing prepared me for the pain of hearing a professional say “your child has autism”. It hit us hard. My heart hurt for Alexander, for my husband, for my daughter.
A few days went by after our appointment and I felt as if I had no more tears left to cry. I got back on my two feet and began our journey. Focused and determined to bring out the best Alexander that he could ever be. After all, this is our job as mothers, as parents, whether or not our kids have any kind of disabilities. I began reading everything I could find on autism. I learned that early intervention was our next step and that a healthy diet and nutrition were also an important role.
By the time Alexander was 33 months he was receiving occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy through early intervention. We changed his diet to a gluten free, caisin free based diet, to clean out toxins from his body. We also eliminated any artificial flavorings from his foods, snacks and even vitamins. We started him on an array of supplements, ranging from Omega-3 oils to protein (plant based) powders. A few months after these changes were made he began to talk again. And my husband and I heard those three little words again, I Love You.
When Alexander turned 3 he started school. Wallace Elementary is one of the schools in Hoboken that offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) classrooms. He has been there for a year now, and is doing amazing. His teachers and aids are all phenomenal, we couldn’t be more happier with our decision to start him in this program. Although he is not 100% verbal yet, he is able to communicate his needs and wants and we’ve come to find out he has a really good sense of humor!
Alexander by no means is fully recovered, every day is a blessing and a challenge. But we will do anything, try anything we can to make sure he lives a happy and healthy life. Alexander is a beautiful little boy, he is smart and very loving. Autism is just one small puzzle piece of who he is.
Autism is no longer a foreign word for us, so if you have any questions regarding our journey, treatment options, diet options etc. Please email me. I truly believe whether you have a child with autism, some other disability, or none at all, we all need support.