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Below is a parent testimonial highlighting the importance of Autism awareness

Our Daughter Mackenzie Has Autism

"Mackenzie was placed with us through foster care at about 5 days old. Mackenzie was a very calm, quiet baby. She rarely cried...

At 3 months old our case workers asked us to bring her in to be tested for an intellectual delay as it was prevalent in her biological family. Mackenzie had not been meeting her developmental milestones. Mackenzie would mostly just lay on her back and watch the ceiling fan and be perfectly content. Because of this I asked if she could possibly be autistic. I was told no. 

Because she wasn’t meeting her milestones, she was started in physical therapy to catch her up to where she should be. At 18 months the physical therapist noticed that she wasn’t talking at all. She started speech therapy shortly after that and continued until she was 11 years old. Mackenzie always seemed content to play by herself, even though we had other children in our home. At age two I had taken her in for a check-up. She was seeing a new doctor. The doctor checked her over and told me she should be seen by a neuropsychologist. He didn’t indicate his reason why. The doctor left the clinic and didn’t make the referral. The next doctor didn’t indicate she need the appointment.

I took Mackenzie to play groups multiple times a week in hopes she would start to play with other children. She did not. She started school at age three to be able to continue the speech therapy through the school district. She did fairly well, but mostly kept to herself. When she started kindergarten, after one month we moved to another town. Before we left, her kindergarten teacher said she was doing good except she was worried about her social skills because she didn’t interact with the other kids. 

When she started at the new school, within three-day school became a nightmare. Mackenzie started having a lot of behaviors at school. We were not seeing the behaviors at home, so we thought she was just having a hard time adjusting. School continued to be very difficult. Her classroom was very chaotic and disorganized. We had asked if she could be placed in a different classroom, but we were told no, she just needed to learn how to behave. 

After 4 months another teacher asked if she could take her in her classroom. Her room was much calmer and followed a schedule. Her teacher did note that even though she was doing very well, and her behavior was good, Mackenzie didn’t react to things the way the other children did. For example, when one of the kids did something good and everyone was praising them, Mackenzie did not react. It was the same if one of the kids did something bad, she didn’t react to that either like the rest of the kids. She was also concerned about her social skills. 

Near the end of kindergarten Mackenzie had to see a doctor for strep throat. He was not her regular doctor. He checked her for strep throat, but then told me he wanted her to go to the Weisman Center. The Weisman Center is a clinic that tests for developmental issues in children. Once again, he didn’t indicate why he wanted her evaluated. There was a 12-month waiting list. Mackenzie started first grade and school became a nightmare again. Her behaviors continued. One teacher suggested they should call the police and that would straighten her out. Mackenzie was treated very badly in school after that. If she wouldn’t look at people and say good morning or “hi” she would get in trouble. The first-grade teacher decided to put her in the hallway and all the classrooms would close their doors. If she tried to talk to the teachers, they would turn their backs and ignore her. They figured that would make her behave better. 

After 6 months in first grade, she had her first appointment at the Weisman Center. The first doctor she saw said she felt Mackenzie had autism. I told the school that the doctor felt Mackenzie was autistic but wouldn’t get a diagnosis until she finished the evaluation. I asked them to stop treating her the way they were, but I was told no. Mackenzie was diagnosed with autism. My husband was transferred for his job, so we moved, and Mackenzie started in a new school. We informed them she was autistic. School didn’t get any better. Within 3 weeks of being in the new school her teacher said she didn’t believe she was autistic, but she probably was bipolar or schizophrenic. Her special education case worker also told us she didn’t feel she was autistic. She made the comment that Mackenzie was the meanest, nastiest kid in school. During an IEP meeting the principal made a comment that Mackenzie was always dressed nicely, and her hair was always combed nice, but he couldn’t figure out why she acted out, even after being given all the information from Mackenzie’s doctors saying that Mackenzie wasn’t intentionally misbehaving. Her behavior was caused by her autism. 

School has always been very hard for Mackenzie because most don’t believe she is autistic. She is now going to school in a special classroom for children with autism. The smaller class size has helped. Mackenzie has a lot of sensory issues which is very common with autism. Clothing can be a big deal if she doesn’t like the feel of the fabric. Certain foods she doesn’t like because it feels funny. The biggest thing is if there are too many people around and they are noisy it can cause a sensory overload and then she will act out. Mackenzie has been on many medications in the six years since she was diagnosed. Some have worked a little and others have made things worse. We just keep trying to find the best medication for her. Puberty is very hard. Especially when it comes to her meds because as she matures the meds react differently. Mackenzie also goes to different therapies to help her learn coping skills and different ways to control her behaviors. We continue with her therapies because we have seen some improvement in her social skills and coping skills. 

It seems like it takes a long time, but every little step counts. Her biggest problems have been the public schools. It is our hope that someday the schools will better understand autism and know that all kids with autism are different, and they need to meet each child’s special needs.”