Chapter Two: M.A.S.H.

by Brandy Pavia

When I was a kid, I loved playing M.A.S.H (Mansion/Apartment/Shack/House).  If you’re over 30, don’t act like you’ve never played!  Strangely enough, each time I played, I’d almost always end up living in a mansion in Hawaii, with Keanu Reeves, our four kids, and a stretch limo.  Those answers may or may not have been rigged, but I’m pleading the fifth.  You’ll be surprised to learn that things didn’t quite pan out the way the game had predicted. Shocking, I know. Turns out, Keanu was just too damn clingy.

My life hasn’t turned out like my rigged games of MASH had predicted.  Instead of the mansion, I ended up in a cute house. Instead of Hawaii, it’s the Garden State.  Instead of Keanu, I upgraded to the best, most handsome hubby & father in the world. Instead of 4 kids, I (thankfully) have 2 perfect babies.  Oh…and I drive a SUV. The limo would’ve been way too flashy.

The point is, life doesn’t always turn out the way you had predicted it would back in the fourth grade. When I found out I was pregnant with Bean, I was ecstatic!  I couldn’t wait to dress her up, take her to dance class, go shopping, and do all of the things I loved to do when I was a kid.  After her autism diagnosis at 2 ½, the things that I once was so excited to do with her, now seemed out-of-reach.  Would I ever be able to enroll her in a dance class?  Would she want to dress up, or go shopping?  Maybe it would be too much for her…(insert dramatic violin music here).

After I snapped out of it, and recognized that Bean was still the same perfect little girl that she was before her diagnosis, I realized that the things I had been so excited about doing with her, could still be done, and that it was unfair to her to assume otherwise. Nothing was out-of-reach, but rather, the sky was the limit for her!

Currently, Bean is nine years old, and in fourth grade.  She loves going to school, and is in a classroom where her teacher is able to give her the individualized attention that she needs.  In school, she receives speech therapy four times per week, and occupational therapy (OT) two times per week.  In addition, we take her to outpatient speech therapy once per week, and have an AMAZING behavior therapist come to our home to work with her twice per week.  She is reading sight words, and her speech is getting clearer each day! She is enrolled in dance and absolutely loves it, and was in her first recital last summer!

She is thriving, and is making tremendous progress every day. When I think back to the day that she said her first real word, “Daddy,” right before her fifth birthday, and look at her now, I am in awe of how far she has come.

My Bean may be neurologically wired differently than you and me, but that doesn’t mean that her way of thinking is wrong. It’s so important for us to teach her that her way of viewing the world is just as valuable as the next person, and to always keep trying. If we try something, and it seems too hard, we will find a way to make the necessary adjustments in order for her to be successful. We will go places, and experience things, and if it’s too much, we’ll try again another day.

Ok, I gotta go…it’s time for dance! 😉


Brandy Pavia is a working mom from New Jersey, with two amazing kids: an autistically awesome daughter, “Bean” & an adorably sweet son, “Bear.” Together with her husband, and their dog, Penny, (who is like one of their kids), she enjoys sharing her family’s adventures and encouraging others to embrace autism along the way!