Autism is my world. I am the mother of a 10-year-old son with autism, and the Executive Director of a national non-profit, ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!). Autism probably affects your world too, because chances are you know someone with autism, or you may be worried that your child may develop autism. The facts are staggering. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDP), 1 out of 110 children in America is diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making ASD more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer and pediatric AIDS combined. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal/nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
My mission is providing funding and support to families that cannot afford the treatments their children with autism need to reach their full potential, as well as helping my son Wyatt reach his. My purpose is to empower parents of all children with lessons that I have learned along the way.
Life is mysterious enough when you are first thrown into parenthood, but even more so when you are faced with the neurological disorder of autism. That is because autism is mysterious on so many levels –from what causes it, to the varying degrees on the spectrum it manifests, to the methods used to treat it. When you suspect your child has autism, you feel like you have landed in the middle of a foreign country where the language, customs, and bureaucracy are all strange, with no guidebook to follow. I felt so alone having to navigate that journey with absolutely no experience. I felt downright terrified.
Getting the diagnosis is the first leg of the trip, and of the multitudes of parents with a child with autism I have spoken to, I can count on two hands the ones who received an accurate diagnosis for their child at an early age. My son was one of those who did not. He had many signs of autism and could have been easily diagnosed at 2, but he was not correctly diagnosed until the age of 4. Equally discouraging is the fact that once families receive an accurate diagnosis, they are often not told about treatments that can lead to remarkable improvement, even recovery, if given early and intensively enough. Too often, we have to find out answers the hard way, and lose valuable time that could have been spent improving the lives of our children. That was what happened in our case — my son did not get these treatments until he was 5.
Important Lesson. Trust Your Intuition. If your child shows signs of developmental delay, research the signs of autism and if your child displays any of them, schedule an assessment. Then learn about proven treatments, such as ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, that can improve the lives of children with autism, and in many cases, recover them. Get as much as possible as soon as possible.
NEXT… more of my personal journey with autism.