Yet at the same time, one of her teachers at day care noticed she had challenges in communication and social skills.
“I was completely unprepared for my daughter’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis,” said Christine Kray, associate professor of anthropology at RIT’s College of Liberal Arts. “Margaret’s House Child Care Center at RIT was key; they immediately arranged for child development evaluation from Rochester Hearing and Speech Center, and the early intervention therapies made a tremendous difference in Annalea’s development.”
The family also benefited from other United Way agencies such as CP Rochester, the sensory-based recreational activities at AutismUp (which sends Annalea into fits of giggles), and therapeutic swimming at the YMCA. The 6-year-old now attends first grade at Scribner Road Elementary School in Penfield, loves dance and music, and memorizes phrases from songs to communicate.
“She can sing the alphabet backward for you,” said her proud mom. “I didn’t know we had such a strong safety net in Rochester until I was falling and it wrapped me up and caught me. As for Annalea’s future, every new word, every new dance step is a cause for celebration. She’s my earth angel.”