• Written by  Selessia Watson

In the eyes of Aristia Wilson autism is when a child experiences the world differently than what most other people do.

Although their behavior can be perceived as different by others, these children are super intelligent and are aware of their environment, only thing they often times communicate differently.


Ms Wilson is the mother of nine-year-old Arissa who was diagnosed at Boston’s Children’s Hospital with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) at the age of three.

“Family and friends expected that many of the developmental milestones typically met by the average child would be delayed, because Arissa was premature and quite ill. So much so, there were times when no one thought she would survive. However, Arissa is very strong, as can be evidenced today, Ms Wilson tells Today In Bermuda.

Ms Wilson recalled when Arissa was a small child: “Because of expected delays, we did not recognise at first, the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. We had never heard of it.”

When the possibility of autism was mentioned, Arissa’s grandparents did a lot of research, as they were very concerned. They insisted that Arissa be assessed overseas.

“Once my daughter was professionally diagnosed at an early stage in her life; she was assigned to receive therapy on the island for speech and language, occupational, physio and physical therapy and adaptive P.E.

“The treatments required were based on her diagnosis and were to enhance and or develop fine and large motor, cognition, speech, language, and behavioral skills,” Ms Wilson continues. “Our journey began with a specialist consultant who was experienced and whose only focus was helping children on the Autism spectrum, and their families. With that guidance and expertise, we were connected with a few of the services, and therapists who would be able to service my daughter’s needs. We started with Child Development Services, twice a week learning as a family how to be hands on in the therapy. When my daughter reached pre-school, through to primary school, she continued with therapy now being delivered by the Ministry of Education.”

Sessions were conducted in both in a private setting and in the classroom with her peers. She adds, Windreach has been another huge highlight in Arissa’s growth.

“The programmes provided for children with exceptionalities were from adaptive sports, life skills, sensory, music enhancement programme, as well as her favorite, therapeutic horse riding. My child gained skills, became more fearless, and has flourished into a testimony of success.

“My daughter currently is receiving private speech and language lessons through Apex. This is aiding her to communicate and express her thoughts, feelings, and identify things around her. Early intervention has been the key to us achieving positive results with the consistent support of her family, teachers, and therapists. I could not ask for more.”

Arissa faced and continues to face many difficulties with expressing herself physically, verbally, and emotionally. However, as a constant work in progress, she is much better than she was just two years ago, her mother says.

“Arissa’s communication for many years was minimal, and delayed, as also her behaviours were repetitive. Arissa has received therapy and treatment to help cope and build vocabulary words into sentences, and to enter conversations, and build on the content. Arissa is now able to communicate, and express herself to her family, teachers, and peers.”

Around three years of age, Arissa started to use sign language. She could communicate her needs, as well as how she was feeling.  As Arissa got older, words, and sign language combined to help her to continue to communicate daily events, and needs. She now has become much more verbal, and does not utilise sign language, due to school and community exposure because of classroom outings.

Her mother adds: “She continues to amaze me with her expanding vocabulary, and the little comments she expresses. I believe much of her progress during the last two years is a direct result of these interventions, as well as the unparalleled intervention of her classroom teacher.

“During this time many of the classroom learning, such as social skills, math, reading, science and more have been vividly brought to life, by her teacher taking the children into the community to experience, learn, and to practice classroom learning. Additionally, her teacher Ms. Trimm has enabled her to experience socialising in a highly structured but real environment on Thursdays as they both attend Girl’s Brigade. She has grown tremendously, and I thank her teacher for these interventions well outside of school hours.”

When asked about the importance of acknowledging Autism Awareness in Bermuda, Ms Wilson replies, “While this is more widely known in the island and worldwide, in many instances it is still limited to affected families, and professionals who deliver services. The awareness of this disorder, needs to be expanded to include the entire island, especially those persons whom are trusted with the education of our children.

“All too often our children who have exceptionalities are mistreated by the adults in whose care they have been entrusted because of a lack of knowledge of the needs of these children, and how the educational system can meet them.”

Ms Wilson concludes: “I wish I could change the impact of the autism community on the island community as a whole. The focus needs to be on better access to services, much more consistent service delivery, and a more robust schedule of service delivery, which will allow all of the children to thrive, grow, and benefit from. Additionally, there needs to be a sufficient number of experienced and dedicated professionals for assessment, research, and service delivery. The current schedule of service delivery by the Ministry of Education is deplorable, and many families have to access very expensive private services to help their child on the spectrum. Additionally, service delivery to these children with exceptionalities, needs to be legislated, so families do not have to depend on government to have an agenda which supports our children’s needs.”


  • Lynne Winfield
    Lynne Winfield Friday, 28 April 2017 11:29 Comment Link

    Aristia Wilson is a super Mum. I know the struggle, but also the joy a child with autism can bring. My son has Aspergers Disorder and also was diagnosed at age 3. My son has given me the patience of a saint. Today he has a Masters Degrees in Creative Writing and a Research Masters in the Philosophy of English from Exeter University. Difficulty he faces today at the age of 32 is employment. At the best of times individuals who have challenges find it hard to find work. In this economic climate it is even worse. There are far more children with Aspergers today than there were 32 years ago. We need to be thinking of their future, how legislatively they can be protected and what support systems for adults need to be in place.

  • AutismMom
    AutismMom Saturday, 22 April 2017 13:58 Comment Link

    Some of our children - in spite of having multiple diagnoses - are completely denied accommodations within the school system. Instead, our children have been labeled as belligerent, obstinate and insubordinate. There is a DESPERATE need for mandatory training for teachers and administrators in simply understanding autism spectrum disorder, as well as knowing how to provide appropriate, individualized supports.

  • Stephanie Wilson
    Stephanie Wilson Friday, 21 April 2017 08:58 Comment Link

    My sister is the strongest & greatest supermom ever. She amazes me how deals with my niece- in such love and great patience. Aristia is not only Arissa's mother, but she is her best friend, therapist & advocate. I am proud of the two of them and to see such progress on this journey. I love them so much and with them all the best.


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