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Hayden's Way

By age 1, he gave up his bottle and pacifier on his own and went to straws and sippy cups. But he wasn't crawling or lifting his head while doing belly time. He wasn't rolling around either. He would say dada but nothing else. By age 2, he was walking, He wouldn't use a fork or spoon. At age 2, his peditrician thought that he should be speaking more than 3 words and babbling more, even showing signs of pretend more than he was. It was suggest that we have him tested for Autism. Though he was diagnosed with ASD, we were in denial. We didn't see it. By age 2 1/2 - 3, we were all learning sign language as a form of communication and he's in preschool, were they have him learning the PECS System as well as sign language as a form of communication.I am online every day, reading stories, learning more about Autism, some days crying and feeling frustrated, some days feeling hopeful and empowered with knowledge to try and help myself as well as my son. I have gained much patience in all of this, it even amazes me. He will be four in July. He is amazing to say the least. He is loving, kind, and funny. He still is non verbal but communicates well through sign. He is smart and masters puzzles, games, has amazing computer skills and can take apart and put back together many things. He is great when we go places, shopping, restaurants and such. He's not a wanderer. He helps around the house all the time. We still have obstacles to face. Eye contact isn't always there and he's such a picky food eater. He sleeps great but we have difficulties with potty training. To this day, we still don't always see Autism. We see that he has different abilities than others. He lights up a room with his smile. He makes me a better person and I love him to the moon and back. He's my teacher and I'm still learning.

Rhonda L DiMaggio
Uncasville, CT

Confusion

Our son is 27 months old. Since he was a baby he has been kind of distant. Unlike our second child he didn't really care to be held, wouldn't mimic facial expression, was behind in rolling/crawling. By one he wasn't talking or pointing. He starting rocking back/forth,stimming,hitting himself, and banging his head. I searched these things on the internet and immediately autism came up.

We brought our concerns to his physician. We were referred to a specialist. His first appointment they did an evaluation, referred him to speech therapy. He was 20 months. His hand gestures changed, but didn't stop. The doctor told us he wasn't sure yet, and wanted to wait. His speech was recorded as that of an 8 month old at 24 months.

7 months after his evaluation, we are still in speech therapy. He has finally started talking! He still has tantrums, rocks, makes hand gestures, (but less) He loves cars and anything that spins, prefers to be alone, doesn't like to be cuddled unless it's on his terms, looks at things out of the corner of his eye, and slaps himself in the face.

We go back and forth, but his speech pathologist who works with autistic children seems to think he is autistic. Everytime they say it, it burns in my chest. For a while I felt as if I lost a part of myself. It was like I was grieving. Would my son ever play sports? Would he get bullied in school? Would he be able to be independent? Would he ever tell me he loves me? Will he get married? Have children?

To me, the diagnosis will not change anything. He will still be my baby. Right now we go back and forth, and it hurts me when people recognize his behaviors and say things like "Why does he do that?" "Look at his eyes! Why is he doing that?" He doesn't seem different to me. He's perfect in my eyes.

I just want the peace instead of wondering everyday "is he or isn't he?"

Anonymous
unknown, CA

My three year old just diagnosed with Autism

Hello my name is Veronica. Me and my husband have a three year old son, Mason, who was just diagnosed with Autism. He is developmental delay by one year. He does not have many words and bables a lot. He is in pre-k at the elementary school I work at. He does have some social problems for instance: he pushes his friends and hits them. He throws tantrums but he is frustrated that he can not speak. Me and my husband knew there was something wrong when he was around 2 and we knew it had to be autism. So we were not surprised by the diagnose. He receives speech therapy while he is in school and also occupational therapy. He loves going to school.

Veronica Lynch
Virginia Beach, VA

There was something different... Not bad... Just different.

I went to an LGB Youth Group from being 14. And one day, when I was 20, I was informed that there was a new girl starting. I'm not going to lie, I only went to be nosy. When I got there, there was this girl, she was quiet at first. Very wall-flower-like. She only spoke when someone spoke to her, and answered direct questions, but didn't join in with others conversations. She played a game of pool with my sister, and played SingStar with me. She had the most beautiful voice I had ever heard in my life. At the end of the night I got her number. She asked me to meet her the following day, so I did. I took her for something to eat, and after I went home, I asked her out by text. She asked me to stay over at her Mum's. I knew she was different... Not bad... Just different. I had never met anyone like her.

Now, I had worked in a Residential School for Children with Autism and CB for 2 years prior to meeting her. While we were going out I started to notice little things. She liked strict routine, didn't like certain textures, she had obsessions (Sleeping Beauty, Tetley Tea Folk) and she would get very passionate about certain things that somehow seemed trivial to me. She didn't understand jokes or social norms. I loved her all the more. But there was something niggling at the back of my mind, and it took me a long time to say anything. I finally asked her if she had heard of Asperger's Syndrome.

I discussed it at length with her, and we went down all the right channels. Last year in July, she got a diagnosis. Asperger's, as I had suspected. She has an Autism Nurse that visits every 2 weeks, and she has made great progress. I am so very proud of the person she has become. We'll have been together 4 years in June. And she really is the most amazing girl I've ever met... She's the blonde one.

Steff Millington
Mexborough, United Kingdom

A Musical Journey

Hello there! My name is Jeffrey Oliver.

I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at the age of 8. I will be 21 later this year, so I've had quite a few years to learn about myself and discover my strengths and weaknesses. While I know there's nothing wrong with them, I'm extremely secretive about my weaknesses, fears and obsessions. Some of them, I've never told anyone, not even my parents.

My biggest strength, without a doubt, is music. I learned to play guitar when I was 9, and almost immediately began writing my own songs. Just a few years later, I was performing live in bars and restaurants. In 2012, I recorded and released my first full-length album of all original songs. Today, I sing in a Rock band, and I'm working on my second solo album; a concept album based on my good and bad experiences with autism. With this, I feel like I've finally found the strength and the right words to properly explain and express my weaknesses, fears, and obsessions within the lyrics of the songs. I know I'll always have my weaknesses, but perhaps making this album with help me to someday be okay with talking about them.

I've never been very good with speaking the right words, especially on the spot. With my music, I feel like I can deliver a message much more clearly, in a more powerful way, and in a way anyone in the world can connect with it. The overall message I've always tried to send is basically "You can win". My songs are all about motivation, positive thinking, never giving up easily, and picking up those that are down. My purpose is always to help others.

It's not always easy, but despite all my fears and weaknesses, I walk out my front door everyday and face the world. And I'm hoping that someday someone will listen to my album and find the strength to face a struggle in their lives.

Thank you for reading! :)

Jeffrey Oliver
Toledo, OH

The Lucky One

When I met Brad back in December, I noticed right away that he is smart, funny, charming, cute, has brown eyes that I could get lost in easily and smile that light up the room. I had a feeling that he has Aspergers. The next day he messaged me on Facebook. I was thrilled. The more I talked to Brad, the more I liked him. About 10 minutes in to our conversation, Brad said to me "I have to tell you something. I have Aspergers." I simply said "I know." He was taken aback by my response and we continued to talk. Then one day he asked me if we were together. I told him "yes we are." He looked at me with this huge smile on his face and said "I am a lucky guy. Girls like you don't even bother with guys like me." That just broke my heart. I tell him all the time that his Aspergers does not define him and who he is. It is a part of him, but it doesn't run his life. I have learned how to help him cope with his moments that he has. I will hug him tight to make him feel better. I will happily scratch his head because he likes the way his hair feels against my hand. He has his moments where does say inappropriate things. All I do is let him know that is not appropriate to say and he smiles at me while saying "Thanks babe." My absolute favorite part about him is when he wakes up every morning and texts me "Good morning beautifully" That makes me smile because he truly means what he says to me. He is so sweet. He is an amazing person. I just can't express how much Brad means to me. One day I plan to marry him. He won me over faster than anyone has. He has broken down my walls and let me in to his. We truly are best friends and soul mates. He is not the lucky one, I am.

Heather
Howell, MI

Perfectly imperfect!

Madelynn was my first child so I never noticed that she was "different" until I took her to her 3 year well child appointment. Her doctor noticed that she didn't maintain eye contact and that she repeated single words over and over. The Dr. told me that Maddy showed signs of Autism. Autism? I had never even heard of it if you can believe it. When I googled autism I couldn't stop crying. I felt overwhelmed and thought how the heck am I'm going to be able to afford to give her what she needed.

Maddy started Pre. K at 3 years old and they labeled her at school as having a developmental delay. By her second year in Pre K they moved her to general ED. I was thrilled and thought maybe she wasn't autistic as she was thriving! When she started Kindergarten things took a turn. She was sent home with the days work everyday to be worked on at home because she wasn't participating in class and wetting her pants at least 3 times a week. We saw the school Psychiatrist and she suggested that we move Maddy to the autistic classroom. It was a smaller class with 10 children, 1 teacher and 4 aides.

Fast forward 11 months and she is doing sooooo much better! She is saying aloud the sound letters make, actually drawing pictures, coloring IN the lines and even writing her name!. Her vocabulary has improved but still talks in "scripts" and in the 3rd person. Her developmental pediatrician did in fact diagnose her with Autism spectrum disorder. Now she will be protected and get all the therapies needed.

Its been a journey and we have a long road ahead, but I know she is capable of so much just from how much growth she's had in just 11 months. I'm no longer saddened by the label "Autistic". She has made me grow as a person and teaches me so much on a daily basis. She's my perfect, beautiful, amazing, intelligent daughter Madelynn who just happens to be autistic.

Christina
Phoenix, AZ

Autism.... Andrew and I.

At a warm Spring day, Andrew was born.

Andrew was very healthy, his doctor wanted me to take him to see a specialist, after lots of testing and questions, they told me the diagnostic.

I had no information what it was, I Google AUTISM, my whole world came crashing down.

Why my son, Why me?! I just wanted one ''perfect'' child, why this was happening to me. Sadness and guilty filled my soul.

I wasn't in denial, but I had hopes in my heart, maybe just maybe they were wrong.

At 9 months old he started the early intervention, Andrew was always smiling, at his small self he was holding his end like a Champ.

Me on the other hand, had to deal with a husband in denial and abusive,my marriage was done.

Andrew was almost 3 years old, I was a single Mom, trying to survive day by day.

Some days, I felt depressed, drained, I just wanted the world to stop and I could step down for a bit.

Autism broke me down, Autism got all my dreams shredded.

There will be days full of frustrations, tiredness, lots of crying,almost getting me to the point of giving up.

Giving up is not an option, my son is my life, he gives me hope to keep going and better myself.

Andrew now is about to be 8 years old, bright, adorable boy, people tells me how mannered and smart he is, I often got that, ''Are you sure, he is Autistic?!''. I smile and say,Yes He is.

Makes me feel good and see what we are doing together is working. I never let Autism keep me and my son down.

Autism made me see the world through Andrew's eyes, everyday is a gift, happiness is at my everyday life.

Autism made me realize I am stronger that I thought I ever could it be.

I know we have a long journey in front of us, still a lot to learn, to fight for.

Autism is losing this battle, Me and Andrew will live happy ever after.

Juaninha
Lowell, MA

Fighting for Nikki.

My daughter Nikki is 10 yrs old now at 7 yrs old she was diagnosed with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder since she is our only child it devastated us when they told us to mourn for the daughter we thought we had, Back then I've never even heard of this thing they called Autism so after how many days of testing and after how many different doctors we walked out of the doctors office looking at the world different, And started educating ourself's to get a better understanding of what this thing my daughter has so we did that they told us how our future was gonna be like especially her so i told them i refuse to mourn for the daughter i thought i had cause i have her so i promised my daughter that i would change the way society looked at her and just except her for the way she is cause she is no less no different just born special to open peoples eyes she may not fit in the eyes of society but she is perfect in our eyes Nikki is non verbal but can sing loves listening to music she is currently attending school now just baby steps for the time being, I believe my daughter is destined for great things so today i fight the big fight for her to be treated with respect not just a kid who is special i look at the world different now as i did before i see beauty and greatness in every person i meet,I never give up hope that one day she is going to start talking and that i will have my mother daughter talk with my daughter and i will keep fighting for her cause i am her voice.

Lily
Fort Vermilion, AB, Canada

My Nicky

I knew almost immediately that my youngest son who is almost 11 had Autism. I have 4 boys on the spectrum, but it is my youngest Nicky who is effected the worst. He is Non-verbal and has lots of sensory issues and behavioral issues as well. He is more like a 15 month old trap in a 10 year old body. And even with all the struggles we have that Autism has given him we wouldn't change him for anything. He is a very loving and Happy Boy. I love him to the Moon and Back.

Joy Kranz
Blaine, MN
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