Meet Liam! This teen has a story to tell...at 8 1/2 months Liam had a vocabulary of about ten words (Elmo, mama, dada, etc.). It was exciting since we were told boys started talking later than girls...and we had a 6 year old girl who pretty much started talking at birth! In May of 2008, I brought Liam in for his 9 month vaccinations. Hours later my baby had a seizure* and that's where our story begins.
He lost his words; he lost his attention but luckily never lost his sweet smile or his love for hugs and kisses :) Thankfully, after an MRI and EEG we knew his brain was fine but clearly something was wrong. We started the testing process two months after his first birthday in August of 2008 and we began Early Intervention in February of 2009 (yes, it takes THAT long). At that point we were sort of used to him hopping about like a bunny and spinning the wheels of his cars, having no idea how to play with them. It was just who he was.
When Liam was officially diagnosed with Autism in April of 2009, we looked at him and thought, "He’s the same kid who lived here yesterday, but today he's Autistic." We didn't love him any less. We weren't afraid of the diagnosis (although we knew we had a lot to learn). We simply continued on the Early Intervention road we had already started.
With Liam, EVERYTHING had to be learned, but luckily, he learns fast. Therapists had to teach him eye contact, teach him how to throw something away, teach him how to ask for help and in each therapy session he made progress. They also helped us help him, allowing us to be an important part of the process. Blocks and flashcards and photos of the family, peg puzzles and foam shapes and bubbles filled our house. These were not just toys, they were necessities. For a while we couldn't imagine life without our “therapist family”, but change would come.
Liam "aged out" when he turned 3 in August of 2010. Early intervention ends, and for better or worse, the school system takes over. Thankfully, by the time he began preschool in September, we had a TALKER! His words somehow found their way back (which sadly, isn’t always the case) and as a preschooler his speech progressed.
Liam's cognitive skills remained quite high in pre-school, yet his social skills and emotional state was always a challenge (he was never “behavioral” but was always filled with anxiety). We decided to place Liam in a school that was better equipped to deal with these issues, and it was the best decision we’ve made.
While the road has not been an easy one, this change set him on the right path. That said, he has consistently been caught between two worlds, taking many inclusion (mainstream) classes, yet needing a self-contained setting at times during the day to simply decompress.
In the blink of an eye, we now have a middle schooler. He’s an extremely smart, funny and kind-hearted child. He’s also a ball of anxiety at a point when life is confusing for most kids his age. He’s hypersensitive to the world around him and takes everything to heart. He’s always known he was autistic, and now really understands his strengths and weaknesses... which can be frustrating. School is a constant challenge, and homework is the bane of his existence (yet he refuses to amend the workload for fear he will fall behind).
As his mom, I knew I needed to find an outlet for this incredible boy. He started drawing as soon as my lefty could properly hold a pencil, so a few years ago I began enrolling him in art classes. He LOVES them! You can always find him drawing and animating... focusing on his “Stick” character.
When I asked Liam if he was interested in designing stickers, he was confused at first... but once I showed him my planners, his eyes lit up and he just started to draw. We began to make lists of the stickers he could create, (in his pocket TN of course). Liam loves to check off what he designs and add to the list as we think of new ideas.
The Sticker Spectrum will help Liam share his often-whimsical art with the world. We love that he will have this creative outlet and something of his own to be proud of.
*We are not anti-vaccine, this is simply how our story unfolded!
Jodi is the founder of the Sticker Spectrum and enjoys planning and scrapbooking! Through The Sticker Spectrum, she hopes to spread awareness for individuals with autism, and how they can do anything they set their minds to!
Emily is Liam's big sister who loves writing, hanging out with family and going to concerts... she enjoys hand lettering, and is known for her impeccable class notes! She loves collaborating with Liam and watching our artistic venture grow!
Frank is Liam's dad who works in television and film. He supports The Sticker Spectrum and Liam's whimsical hand drawn designs!
Our Boston Terrier puppy! Despite her villainess name, Harleen is a sweet and small bean, who loves to run and cuddle!
Liam was first diagnosed with autism at a very young age. Once he aged out of early intervention, he entered public school. The first school he attended wasn’t ideal… so we moved him to a more appropriate program. While there, we knew instantly he was “home”- and he’s been there ever since. This school had a huge mural on the wall, and each teacher’s photo was contained in a puzzle piece. Each photo fit together… like a family! He was lost before, but this school was an important piece of his life. We just knew that we were in the right place!
When we started this business, Liam loved the puzzle piece: each and every piece an homage to his school and how he’s progressed each year. We chose this symbol not to represent the autistic community per se, but to honor the school and staff that Liam loves. He was never a problem to be solved, he was never missing a piece of anything...he was always a piece of a loving and nurturing family...both in and out of school. Moving forward however, after doing some research and discussing this subject with some autistic adults, we discovered that the neurodiverse community does not embrace the puzzle piece.
While we have decided to keep our previous designs, moving forward, we will introduce the infinity symbol. We feel it’s important to respect and represent the autism community as a whole in the best way possible.
The infinity symbol, we have come to learn, is a beautiful inclusive symbol that represents neurodiversity and the diversity of the autism spectrum. The original design is rainbow (our “signature” color), but we plan to incorporate different colors and designs each month as we have in the past with our puzzle pieces.
Liam is so excited to start this new chapter...we hope you enjoy our new infinity symbols as much as we enjoy making them. As always our mission is to not only share Liam’s vibrant and unique designs, but to spread awareness about his story and that of others.
A look into the life of Liam through the years. New posts coming every April in honor of Autism Acceptance Month!
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