Apart, But Closer Than Ever: Olivia's Story
Family time was no longer an option for Olivia’s family. Because of her behaviors, Olivia, her parents, and her sister could no longer spend time together without the risk of things getting out of hand. Olivia was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. Her behaviors became worse as she grew older. Instead of enjoying the goofy, silly daughter and sister who loved to dress up and pretend she was different characters, Olivia’s family was forced to stay away from the person they loved. They lived in the same house, but all lived separate lives.
Brittney, Olivia’s mom, knew the family couldn’t go on like this. They only had one household income at a time because either she or her husband had to stay home with her. When someone mentioned Heartspring to Brittney, the family saw hope. She researched the organization and realized it was somewhere Olivia could thrive.
“We looked it up, Britney said. “I didn’t even know a place like that existed. We found Heartspring and I knew Olivia needed that.”
The process was not easy. The family had to wait three years to get Olivia enrolled at Heartspring. Just when things seemed to be getting worse their phone rang.
“We got that Heartspring call just in time,” Brittney said. “It really saved our family.”
Olivia started her new chapter at Heartspring in February 2022. The team of experts assigned to her immediately started working to create a plan for Olivia. Heartspring Speech Language Pathologist Holli helped Olivia expand her vocabulary so she could communicate how she was doing and what she wanted. When Olivia begins to become frustrated or agitated, she now asks for a walk, a cup of water or a chance to draw her favorite characters instead of entering into a behavior. She is engaging more with her classmates and staff.
“When she first came to us, she would not engage with you very much,” Heartspring Home Coordinator Whitney said. “She is a completely different person and loves talking with the staff. We absolutely love having her with us, and she can always put a smile on your face.”
It’s not just Heartspring staff and students who have noticed the change. Olivia’s family has seen it as well. When they come for visits, they can actually spend time with Olivia. They give hugs and go for car rides. Even though Olivia is halfway across the country, the amount of quality time the family has gotten to spend together has increased.
“She’s just very affectionate with us the whole time,” Brittney said. “It’s been wonderful to experience the good things Olivia has to offer because for a long time it was so negative.”
We can’t wait to see how Olivia and her relationship with her family continue to progress and grow.