Our beautiful Kerrigan was born healthy, but as early as a few months old I knew something was not right. By the time she was one year old, the only thing she responded to was music. She was referred to early intervention, and after long waiting lists for a formal diagnosis, we finally heard the words: severe non-verbal autism. We have not slowed down ever since. This year, we decided to partner with the Autism Science Foundation’s annual Recipe4Hope fundraiser, which honors families celebrating the holidays and raises critically needed funds for autism research.

Today, thanks to those years of early intervention, Kerrigan attends a full day of school where she receives speech, occupational, and physical therapy, as well as Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy. She now swims and plays soccer. Incorporating music continues to be a huge part of her progress, and by doing so it has helped her to communicate, interact, and be in public places. Through music, we have found a way to connect with her. I am not surprised by how much music helps Kerrigan, because music was soothing to my intellectually disabled sister in the same way. Music is integrated into her therapies at MusicWorks in nearby Havertown, as well as in her school, and it has made a world of difference. Kerrigan is one of the happiest girls in the world and is very affectionate.

So, you see, it really does take a village to raise one child with autism: therapists, friends, parents, family members and the community. I cannot thank all the people involved in her life enough – especially our parents who are not just babysitters, but music teachers in their own way. Our family thanks them from the bottom of our hearts. This season, we support the Autism Science Foundation so that they can support research into treatments that have helped Kerrigan, and so many other people with autism.

Warmest wishes this holiday season,

Natalie MacElroy

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