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Autism is hers, but it’s also ours as a family.

We all hold that diagnosis.

The day before Thanksgiving 2018, 18-month-old Khamoi was diagnosed with Autism. Michael was there to support the family in learning about the diagnosis. “Michael Tatro, Speech Language Pathologist,  literally saved our family,” said Rickeyia. “She helped us navigate the whole system and guide us through appointments, and then she helped explain the mind-blowing diagnosis.”

“When Khamoi was diagnosed, I was so mad and embarrassed,” said Rickeyia. “I cried on the Zoom call with Michael. She made me feel like a person with feelings, not just a Mom. Rainbows helped me recognize these raw feelings of fear, that I was mad at the diagnosis and embarrassed as a parent. These things aren’t talked about enough. With Michael’s help, I was able to re-think my picture of Khamoi’s life.”

Khamoi’s father, Aikeem was relieved and grateful. “We have a diagnosis,” he said. “We’re so lucky we caught it so early because of Rainbows. The Autism is hers, but it’s also ours as a family. We all hold that diagnosis.”

Aikeem is a working, full-time Dad. Mom, Rickeyia works as a Behavior Health Assistant, and a full-time student who will graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and a minor in Social Work. “We’re a team,” said Rickeyia. “Rainbows is part of our team.”

“When I first met Khamoi, she was a very laid back child who enjoyed watching some TV, but mostly played by herself, picking up and dropping objects,” said Michael. “At the end of our time together, she learned to communicate her wants and needs by handing us items and pulling us to what she wanted. She enjoyed sitting in our laps as we played together with toys.”

When it came time to begin the transition from Infant/Toddler Services to possible school choices, Michael was again there to help the family with the hard decisions. Aikeem and Rickeyia made the decision for Khamoi to attend Rainbows, while her brother would go to another pre-school. “Khamoi and Khoi balance each other out,” said Rickeyia. “Khoi motivates Khamoi and pulls her out of her shell; Khamoi mellows him out. They need different services and schools, but they still sleep together every night.”

“It was nerve-wracking as parents for us to choose pre-school for Khamoi,” said Rickeyia.” It is hard to put your trust in other people to care for your child. Rainbows is different from other centers. They are invested in Khamoi.”

Khamoi started attending Rainbows’ Early Care and Education at Kids’ Point when she was 32-months-old and Rickeyia says she is thriving. “Khamoi has made amazing progress since she started,” said Mariah Roberson, Lead Teacher. “When she initially came to us, she had very little communication skills. Now, she has gained so many words. Her favorite thing to do is to request us to turn on the bubbles. She leads one of us over to the bubble machine and then proclaims, “Bubbles.” She also does an amazing job when we do our mental health check-in every morning. She will place her name under ‘happy’ and then point and say, “Happy,” all while smiling. She will get out the animals in our animal bucket, line them up and say the names of the animals.”

Khamoi’s social skills have also improved. When she first started, she didn’t interact with the other kids very much. Now, she has several friends she enjoys playing with and will seek them out to play with her.

While she attends Kids’ Point, she also receives support from Rainbows’ Autism Services. “Danielle Parrott, Autism Specialist, is amazing,” said Rickeyia. “She came to our home and explained what services would look like for Khamoi. Emily Watson, Autism Behavior Technician, took time to get to know Khamoi so she is able to provide what Khamoi needs.”

As part of her growth through the Autism program, Khamoi is using picture exchange and her words to communicate her wants and needs which trickles over into all of her other activities in her life. She appears to be a happier child. She is constantly laughing and singing. She has expanded her vocabulary. “Khamoi has come so far in such a short amount of time,” said Danielle. “She surprises us every day with her skills.”

At Halloween, Danielle and Emily taught Khamoi how to Trick-or-Treat. They took her all over the Kids’ Point building to practice knocking on office doors while holding her jack-o-lantern pail, and teaching her to say “Trick-or-Treat!” to receive candy in preparation for her to go trick-or-treating with her family. She did a great job and caught on very quickly easily approaching other adults and asking them for a “treat”!

“Khamoi is amazing, resilient and brilliant,” said Rickeyia.” I want to give her a sense of power for her life. I want my child to have the choice to tell people she has autism or not. We’re setting her up. We’re a team.”