When Gina was about 2 years old she was diagnosed with PDD NOS (an autistic spectrum disorder). The pervasive development disorder diagnosis was a result of evaluations sought because Gina could not speak at age 2.
In fact, Gina did not really start speaking words until after age 3. In addition to a speech and language delay, she had many other developmental delays. She did not have age appropriate social skills. She had poor eye contact, sensory issues, and feeding issues among others.
She had difficulty transitioning and did not adapt well to new environments. She was often afraid in public and could not tolerate noisy places such as theme parks or carnivals. She had odd behaviors such as scratching the floors and walls and stacking her toys instead of playing with them. She had no imaginary play skills. When she went to a playground, she showed no interest in other children. She would simply pick up sticks and rocks.
The doctors that diagnosed her were unable to state whether her condition would improve or worsen. They were unable to tell us whether she would ever be able to speak.
Gina has worked very hard over the past few years to reach every goal set for her. Now, this beautiful child that once could not speak, has established herself as an up and coming vocal star. She has performed the National Anthem at major events around the Country including the 2008 US Open, NBA, MLB and NHL season games.
Having worked with autistic children for years, I personally know first hand the indescribable joy when a child made eye contact with me for the very first time. When that child, who had been nonverbal for a long time, or perhaps forever – uttered his first word.
I learned to love children who seemed to live in their own “autistic world”, completely unresponsive to those around them, including me.
One precious little girl never uttered a word. Ever.
I was told she was non-verbal and not to bother communicating as she would “never respond to me.”
One day, during trampoline excercise, I began singing..song after song.
Soon after, I heard a little voice, singing along with me…ever so quietly.
Esther sang and sang….and sang.
Do I believe in miracles?
By the way…………….
The Magic are now 5-0 in the playoffs whenever Gina Marie sings.