WHO WE ARE:
We are the 3 O’s. John, Jenny and Olivia Olshefski. Our daughter was born in Guatemala and came to her “forever” home in Mountain Top when she was 5 months old. From the moment the 3 O'S came into being we knew we were very blessed. John and I felt so honored to become the parents of this special little girl.
At first I thought that our biggest challenge would be explaining and dealing with the issues of adoption. We found out about 2 ½ years later that there was something much bigger that would challenge our family. That challenge was autism.
Livy was and always has been a very happy and pleasant little girl. As her mother, the first inkling that something might be off was when she was beginning to really talk. Her words consisted of phrases and songs from various cartoons, videos and shows that she watched. It amazed us that at such a young age she could watch a commercial and then repeat it and sometimes act the whole thing out. Sometimes almost word for word. The normal “why” questions that plague most parents never came. People would tell me “You should be thankful that you aren't getting a million “why” questions each day." Olivia didn't seem to be interested much outside of her “cartoon world” as we liked to call it. We would later learn that her talk and behavior was called scripting.
Another thing that made me question things was that when I spoke to her, she would rarely look me in the eye. I had to turn her head towards me and point to my eyes in order for her to be able to focus on what I was saying. When I began working as a TSS four years ago, one of the first things that they told us when we were in training is that when you are working with autistic children a big challenge that we would have is getting them to focus. They have poor eye contact and have trouble focusing. Boy was I familiar with that concept.
When I addressed my concerns with family members and even some Doctors, they all said “Oh she is just developing later than other children." Trusting my motherly instincts, we made an appointment with Dr. Scott Myers from Geisinger in Danville. He confirmed that my gut feelings were correct. Something wasn't right. He told us that Olivia had autism, specifically PDD-NOS, which at that time was just a bunch of letters to us. (Olivia later was diagnosed with PDD-NOS with Asperger characteristics.) Dr. Myers gave us some handouts and information about wrap-around services and the minute the 3 O’s left his office our journey into the world of autism began.
A NOTE FROM DAD:
When Jenny and I adopted Olivia from Guatemala , at the age of 5 months, we were the happiest parents on Earth. She was the most beautiful, perfect child in the world. Olivia seemed to be developing nicely, but Jenny noticed some different behaviors that were concerning. After consulting with various physicians about these behaviors, Olivia was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of three.
What is PDD? What is Autism? These are the questions that kept going through my mind. So I looked them up on Web MD.com and was sure that I now knew everything about PDD and autism.
Olivia was the happiest child that you could ever be around. We noticed that she would increasingly disappear into her cartoon world and could not stand large crowds and certain noises that hurt her ears. She has had early intervention since she was diagnosed and worked very hard to overcome some of her fears and anxiety.
It has been a long struggle for Olivia to become the person she wants to be. Normal friendships are difficult for her because of her social anxiety and her unique way of thinking. Everyday activities that you and I don’t even think about, present huge challenges for her and other kids with autism. We are happy to say that at age 10 (Liv is now 15 years old and is enrolled at the Graham Academy in Kingston, PA) Olivia has made tremendous progress thanks to many great people and programs that were available to her.
Through Olivia, Jenny and I have had the privilege to meet and share experiences with many autistic children and their families. It is amazing to us how talented and driven many of these children are. I have come to find that I really don’t know a heck of a lot about autism and I seem to be learning something new everyday. More importantly, from Olivia I have learned about life. These children with so called special needs really have special talents. It is up to us to listen to the lessons that these children teach. God bless them.
On October 2009, Olivia had her picture taken with our race horse, Fleetwood Liz, in the winner’s circle at the Mohegan Sun. For years we could barely get Olivia into an area where there were crowds of people and loud noises. Now she strutted out there proudly and posed for the camera. It is moments like this that have inspired the creation of Liv with Autism Stables and the Liv with Autism Foundation. Jenny and I, through the Liv with Autism Foundation, hope to help other children with developmental disorders and their families reach their full potential.