As a 50-year member of Alpha Xi Delta, I have so many wonderful memories and reasons to be proud of my membership. One of the best reasons is the partnership that Alpha Xi Delta shares with Autism Speaks. Why this relationship is important is the reason I am sharing a story about a special teenager who calls herself Joey, even though her given name is Olivia. This is the story of my granddaughter. Perhaps, you question why I bring up her name? What difference does it make what she calls herself? She is Joey, a 15-year-old on the autism spectrum. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Joey began her life over a month earlier than the doctors had predicted. Weighing in at less than three pounds, she was adorable. So tiny that she actually slept in a doll bed those first nights home from the hospital. As she advanced to the toddler stage, it became apparent there was something amiss with her development. She began to show classic behavioral signs of autism- little eye contact, spinning around, no verbalization and sensitivity to touch. Doctors confirmed after testing, that indeed our little girl’s behaviors placed her on the autism spectrum. Of course, what I most wanted, was to hug this little, blonde-haired girl and soothe her, but this was a child that did not want to be hugged. Lucky for her and for me, with early intervention of a variety of therapies and the dedication of her parents, progress was made. On her fourth birthday, she talked for the first time!! She attended special schools through preschool and kindergarten, and then came the first grade where she was mainstreamed. A new little personality was emerging, one whom, for whatever reason, hated the name Olivia, so she chose the name Joey. Now you know why in the beginning of this letter, I found it important to talk about names.
The rest of the story continues today. A sophomore in high school with great grades (A’s in her classes!), she plays lead guitar and sings vocals in a rock band. In my wildest dreams, I could not have believed this would be happening. Remember, Joey’s first words didn’t occur until she was four… now she sings! She is such a confident teen. So now you understand why Autism Speaks is close to my heart. Because of the work that Autism Speaks does, other children, like Joey, can receive early intervention and therapies. Of course, I hope that Joey will choose a college that offers an Alpha Xi Delta chapter. What fun it would be to be a Sister and a grandma at the same time! But the exciting part of this entire story is that Joey has choices and dreams. For all of the other Alpha Xi Delta grandmothers reading this letter, please support Autism Speaks. You too, may have a rock star!!
Donna Gettle Worthley, Epsilon Delta Chapter, Indiana State University