Autism Speaks Canada Walk: Montréal 2019
Local Walk Ambassadors: Rosalia and Giancarlo
Read More about Rosalia and Giancarlo
Meet five-year-old Rosalia and her big brother Giancarlo, who is seven. Giancarlo loves being the star of his own videos, playing with his Thomas and Friends trains, and eating chocolate brownies. Rosalia loves purple and pink, playing Barbie, and being in control. They are each other’s favorite people and, in addition to being the ambassadors for the 2019 Montreal Walk, they are the honorary members for Team GiaGia - a name we came up with in 2016 when we first participated in the walk and both kids were unable to pronounce Giancarlo’s full name. As a team, we are honored to give a voice to other families who, like ours, are both ordinary and extraordinary in spite of and because of Autism.
Team GiaGia is about more than a yearly walk we do to support Autism Speaks Canada. Team GiaGia is about all the members of our family living with Autism Spectrum Disorder every day. It is about a mother and father trying their best to balance the individual needs of both of their children, and not always succeeding. It is about a younger sibling who is fighting for attention but is also wise beyond her years because of the lessons she learned from her brother’s special needs. Team GiaGia is also about accepting that it takes a village - grandparents who fill in the gaps when mother and father are struggling; therapists and special educators who come into our home and our hearts. It is about the joy in tiny victories and the courage to face struggles together, as a team.
Giancarlo is our friendly giant - a big boy with an even bigger heart. He feels everything intensely: anger and frustration, but also joy and love, and there is no one he loves more than his little sister Rosalia. It hasn’t always been easy for Rosalia to share the spotlight with Giancarlo. She doesn’t always understand why she is expected to do certain things independently while her big brother gets help and attention for the same tasks. She sometimes feels anxious and overwhelmed by her brother’s extreme feelings because sometimes he loses control over them. But at just 5 years old, she has already become an advocate for her brother, often explaining to friends that her brother plays and expresses himself differently but should still be included. Rosalia has also taken on a caretaker role, trying to soothe her older brother after a meltdown or “translating” his needs to others. Despite their special bond, Rosalia also makes sure that we recognize her as an individual, independent of the fact that she is a special needs sibling.
Giancarlo is also more than just his special needs. Yes, his Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Hyperactivity disorder tend to take a lot of space, but so does his boisterous laughter and big personality. In fact, when working with his team of educators to find solutions to his challenges, we must not only consider medication, behavioral and environmental factors but also that he is a seven-year-old boy who likes to have fun and can be a little mischievous at times, just like most seven-year-olds are! All of those factors came into play as Giancarlo recently overcame a huge hurdle at school and was finally able to integrate after several months of refusing to enter a classroom.
And then there is our village. The foundation that holds us up and keeps us glued together. Of course, mom and dad do what they can to help their kids be the best they can be, but at the heart of our close-knit family are Giancarlo and Rosalia’s grandparents, who provide much-needed respite and daily support, and are team GiaGia’s biggest fans! Together, we are proud to be the ambassadors for the 2019 walk, to raise awareness and funds for the mission of Autism Speaks Canada to increase understanding, acceptance and inclusion of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, advance innovative research, and make connections to lifelong services and supports for the autism community.