Memphis, TN- When Takeallah Rivera talks about her two children who have autism, she zeroes in on their strengths. She describes her son, Hendrix, as patient, nurturing, and welcoming. She says her daughter, Racquel, is nonverbal but has amazing communication skills. Takeallah wants other parents who are starting this journey to know that acceptance is the first step.
“Autism to us, in our household, it’s our normal. I don’t see it as a barrier for their excellence at all,” she said, beaming with pride for her children.
But when asked about her journey to getting her two kids an autism diagnosis, she takes a deep breath before sharing her story because the years leading up to this point were filled with waitlists, paperwork, and frustration.
“It was just brick wall after brick wall,” she said.
By the time her son, Hendrix, was 10 years old, Takeallah had been trying for 5 years to get him into therapy. She needed an official medical diagnosis that a therapy center would accept. Waitlists for in person autism evaluations were far too long and that’s when she started doing her own research. At the same time, she noticed her 2 year old was showing signs of autism. Takeallah was very motivated to find help for both of her kids and that’s when she discovered a virtual clinic for autism evaluations called As You Are.
“I Googled, ‘autism evaluation online’ because it was the height of COVID and thought maybe somebody had developed a program that could evaluate my children online. As You Are popped up and it was a very rapid fire experience. Within a month, both evaluations were done and I had a report,” she said.
Takeallah was also aware that there could be long wait lists for therapy. That was the next hurdle she was worried about until she met her As You Are “Care Sidekick,” a name for a member of the care coordination team who connects families to resources in their zip codes. She says all of the therapy centers in her area accepted the diagnosis from As You Are.
“I worked with Care Sidekick, Heather, and we met twice. Within those two meetings, they connected me to all of my child’s therapies. Occupational, speech, everything. A process that took me 5 years for my oldest only took a few months for my youngest,” she said.
Now with an official medical diagnosis and therapy in place, Takeallah is excited for Hendrix and Racquel’s future. Her next goal: Encouraging every parent she meets to embrace autism.