Riki Daniels's daughter, Charlie Daniels, 6, was diagnosed with autism at two and half. Daniels said it's been unbelievably hard raising her. She tells Big 2 the struggles they go through everyday are 200% beyond what a typical family deals with. However, Daniels said her daughter has come a long way since she was diagnosed. Charlie is now on the higher functioning side of the autism spectrum.
"She's verbal and she is learning how to interact with both her peers and adults," explained Daniels.
But that hasn't always been the case. Charlie often had difficult behavioral problems and she wasn't seeking any social interaction with kids her age or her family. From time to time she still acts out and probably will for the rest of her life due to her condition. But the point is: her episodes aren't as bad as they used to be.
"First and foremost what parents who are looking at autism diagnosis I want them to understand there's hope. The doctor didn't give us any hope," she said.
Hopeless and defeated is how Daniels felt when she first got the news. But she eventually picked herself up, regrouped, and focused on getting Charlie better. Thankfully, Charlie's symptoms were caught early, which is the key in battling autism.
"Just because the nervous system is so pliable, so changeable, so with change early on they have a better opportunity to succeed," said Kim Armitage, the founder of the Permian Basin Autism Network. "Parents did not know what it was, they did not know what to do,they did not know what to do."
Armitage is also an occupational therapist and the owner of TOTs Therarpy & Wellness Center. She works with special needs children, so she knows first hand how tough treating autism can be. Cases range from mild to severe.
"They struggle with a lot of sensory information, the sounds maybe to loud, and lights maybe to bright that they can't get through their day," said Armitage.
Causing some kids with severe autism to lash out, scream, hit, among other things.Today Daniels is the vice president of the Permian Basin autism Network and teaches parents about the disorder. Daniels tells Big 2 autism has been a blessing in disguise. The little things in life count more for her family.