Family learns to deal with autism

2010-06-24T11:56:00Z 2010-06-24T12:00:25Z Family learns to deal with autismDebra Jacobsen/Tribune correspondent Fremont Tribune
June 24, 2010 11:56 am  • 

Hope never disappears.

"There's no cure. No magic medicine," said Jill Meusch of Clearwater.

Meusch's daughter, Hailey, has an invisible disability.

"Hailey looks like any other 4-year-old," Meusch said.

But when Hailey was 18 months old, Meusch and her husband, William, saw some signs.

"No eye contact. She wouldn't play with us," Jill said. "She hated being touched."

A pediatrician diagnosed Hailey with PDD-NOS, an autism spectrum disorder.

"Pervasive development disorder - not otherwise specified," Jill said.

Early intervention and special education through occupational and speech therapy have helped.

Hailey has seen psychologists. She attended Head Start preschool. However, Hailey needs more.

"I know from experience that insurance does not cover behavioral help for these children," Jill said. "We have had to resort to medication to control severe behavior like head banging and aggression."

The family's desire to obtain a skilled canine companion for Hailey was the subject of an Oct. 26, 2007, Fremont Tribune story.

The Meusches do not know if Hailey will ever be able to live on her own.

"She is the sweetest girl, but mysterious - anything can set her off," Jill said. "We prepare for the worst."

That makes even grocery shopping a monumental task.

"We can't go anywhere without planning. Even going to the grocery store takes two extra people," Jill said. "There are days that we go to the store and I go home and cry because people are so rude."

Jill said she wishes people could understand.

"Parents who have children with any disability are faced with a hard life. Instead of criticizing, learn to be compassionate," she added.

Jill said in many ways, their family is typical.

"We still try to make our children's lives as enjoyable as we can," Jill said.

Hailey's 3-year-old sister, Abby, shows no sign of autism.

"It is hard to see Abby being younger, yet surpassing Hailey," Jill said.

For Hailey, there is no imaginative play.

"No dolls, no ‘teas,' no ‘dress up,'" Jill said.

This summer, the family will spend time in both Fremont and Omaha for Hailey's medical appointments and therapy. They need to live near available services.

The family recently purchased a home in North Bend, to be closer to Fremont, for frequent medical appointments.

Some of the family's dreams have vanished.

"We always wanted our kids to grow up on a farm," Jill said.

But the family still finds joy.

"We don't just celebrate birthdays. We celebrate all the little things, too," Jill said.

For Hailey, milestones include drinking from a straw, singing along in the car - and walking while holding a hand without bolting away.

"Things are a struggle for our little girl," Jill said.

 

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