Union County family looking to connect with others living with Autism

Madi Penegar is a 5-year-old from Unionville.
Madi Penegar
Madi Penegar(Family photos)
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 6:02 PM EDT
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UNIONVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - There is only a few more days left in April, which is recognized as Autism Awareness Month.

One local 5-year-old girl, Madelyn, was diagnosed this past October. Madi, as she’s known for short, is an inspiration to her mom.

Ashlyn Penegar posts almost daily on her Instagram about her daughter. She’d love for us all to meet Madi, who is becoming the newest one of our amazing #MollysKids.

The family lives in Unionville, a small town near Monroe. Madi goes in in the EC Pre-K program at Indian Trail Elementary School and was diagnosed with Level 2.

”She is nonverbal, so that makes things almost impossible when we are trying to figure out what she needs or wants,” Ashlyn said. “She also has food allergies. Combined with autism, it’s hard to find something healthy to give her to eat.”

Ashlyn relayed a fact I wasn’t aware of until now. She said some children with autism will actually elope or run away, that they love to bolt off after you turn away from them.

”This is something my husband and I worry about all the time,” Ashlyn said. “Madi LOVES to wait until you look away, then she’ll run off. She doesn’t stop unless we catch up to her and grab her. It gets scary. We’ve fenced in our backyard to help and have child locks on our doors. We’ve also had to turn our door handles around so you open them by pulling up instead of pushing down. Madi is also constantly trying to fulfill her sensory needs, and is a little dare devil. We have a sensory swing installed in our playroom that she swings in all the time.”

Ashlyn said Madi is currently receiving both speech and occupational therapy at Child & Family Development in Pineville.

”It has helped SO much,” she said. “Not only does it help her…it’s rewarding to us as her parents. That’s a lot of what I put out on my Instagram, and I think those recent posts this month during Autism Awareness Month can help other parents raising children who live with autism. Having a nonverbal special needs child is something I never imagined. I get stressed to the max wondering if I’m doing things right. (So stressed, actually, my husband has literally turned grey with his hair.) But…we have an amazing family. We feel support every day. I’d love to help others who are looking for someone who might understand what they’re going through.”

Love this idea, Ashlyn. It’s always a positive thing to admit you’re learning something as you go (aren’t we all, no matter the circumstance?).

Good luck, maybe some people will find your IG through this and feel good about what they read.

Please welcome Madi to #MollysKids.

- Molly