The Prather Family: A Session for Clara

I went into this session knowing the Prather family very well.  Brandy and I went to school together but our journey didn't truly cross paths until we connected over our girls diagnoses.  We have been a support system for one another but most importantly... I've grown to love her family as my own and she's grown to love mine as well.  Clara is very special to me as is her brother, Luke who you'll see plenty of in this post as well.  I really want Brandy to tell their story so without further adieu:  

My mama heart has been crushed several times, but on two particular days, layers of trauma were created leading me into unchartered territory. The first day was when I was told, “Your daughter has a birth defect.” The second being, “Your daughter does fall on the spectrum.” Before Autism, Clara fought a yearlong battle full of tests, surgeries, therapies, and appointments to repair her small jaw and cleft palate that made eating and breathing difficult for her. After her last surgery, she started to soar developmentally. She still had motor delays, but we expected as much given her tiny body was repeatedly distressed with multiple surgeries. She was eating, drinking, and breathing so well. She was putting words together at 18 months and speaking in full sentences before the age of 2. She was happy, and we were relieved. We finally felt the despair was behind us and that our life was finally ours.

Right around the time Clara turned 2, I noticed she was a little more irritable, withdrawn even. I started to grow concerned at her 2nd birthday party. I know toddlers that young prefer to play near instead of with peers, but Clara was fairly oblivious to the children around her. My concern only grew in the following months as her irritability amplified, and she became more and more withdrawn. She didn’t necessarily lose speech, but it did change and became an area of frustration. She developed echolalia of which she would answer a question by repeating the question. Speech was mainly used as a means to have her needs met instead of for leisure or connecting to those around her. She also stopped making as much eye contact and would spend a significant amount of time pacing back and forth.

When I could no longer deny so many red flags, I scheduled a full neuropsychological evaluation that confirmed she is on the Autism Spectrum. I was so sad and so tired. I had recently spent all of my emotional and physical strength on her harrowing first year. Those closest to us were supportive, but many had flooded us with information they had retrieved with the best intentions but it was too much and all at once. I remember breaking down in my husband’s arms because we had so much to do, but we were only two people. Once we had our feet somewhat underneath us, we started therapies and placed her in preschool.

It’s been almost three years since her diagnosis, and so much has been accomplished. Clara has worked extremely hard. Much has been asked of her. She no longer has echolalia, and we have the cutest conversations! She’s able to express the emotions that stir inside her tiny heart. Once again, she loves to sing and ask questions. She still struggles with peer interaction and participating in a group, but she is definitely aware of her surroundings. She can come home and tell me everything about her time away, and by everything, I mean everything. She’s definitely an observer. She has the kindest heart and wildest imagination. Anything her mind touches can transform into a beautiful and magical adventure. She is my brave daughter. A tiny superhero. She is rare and unlike any other. She has Autism, but she also has her entire life ahead of her with the hearts of many who adore her in the palm of her hand.
— Brandy Prather
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Imagery Courtesy of Jamie Nicole Scott, photographer | Indiana 

Spectrum Inspired.