Olivia is a 5 year old girl with autism who comes to our Marapodi Community Care Center. The first thing our team noticed about Olivia is her beautiful smile.

Some of our staff sat down recently with Mervis, Olivia’s mom, who was kind enough to share a little of their story: “Olivia can be very active, which is really tiring…it’s almost impossible to have her in one place for a long period of time. With the help of the Special Hope Network team, she has been learning how to manage and control her movements.

Olivia enjoys playing with her friends and her elder sister. Her way of getting people’s attention is to tap them on the shoulder or thigh. The tap gets harder if she is not given attention and it may continue until she feels she has what she is asking for. She does this with visitors at home, her friends and just about everyone. This sometimes is misunderstood as if she is just being a bully or ‘violent’ especially with her friends.

We have experienced a certain level of stigma, as some parents would stop their kids from playing with Olivia because according to them, ‘Olivia was not normal as she could be violent’, “yet still, others are very supportive and welcoming with Olivia because they have accepted, loved and understood her.

Olivia loves to help me with my cooking. It’s the one thing you can leave her doing for a considerable amount of time. When I want to do some chores, I just give her some cooking toys and she’ll be seated doing her thing as I do mine.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when it’s time for her father to go to work, Olivia fetches his shoes – we were both amazed the first time she did this, ‘so she actually knows, she understands’, we thought laughing together. She is such a lovely girl, it’s like she always has something to surprise us with.”