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Our Dyl Pickle

My husband and I had been blessed with two wonderful sons in our 13 year marriage. We always thought about one more child, and in 2012, that wish came true. Dylan Robert was born October 15, 2012 and our family was complete with our trio of boys. He was a perfect little bundle of joy and we just loved him to pieces. Our older sons were 11 and 9 at the time, so there was a bit of an age gap, but they loved having a new little brother. It really brought us all closer feeling like we were all somewhat 'raising' him. Dylan met every milestone timely, some even early. Crawling, walking, climbing.....however, he never made strong eye contact with anyone in our family and he wouldn't say any 'real' words, even after his first birthday. He mouthed everything he could get his hands on, he walked on his tiptoes, he only ate 'certain' foods and he loved to stack and un-stack tiny items over and over. We grew worried as we would look back at baby books and videos of our older sons and see Dylan was no where near either of them in certain areas. It just didn't seem 'normal'. I had friends and family who supported us and even brought up odd behaviors they had witnessed as well with Dylan. In December 2013, after multiple visits with neurologists, developmental pediatricians, psychologists, you name it. Dylan was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and sensory processing disorder. He currently does speech and occupational therapy weekly. This fall, he will be attending the Autism school in our state, which is a wonderful program for children and we are ecstatic he was able to get early intervention. Autism is not a disease. My son is perfectly happy and healthy. He shows us the world from a different perspective. He has made me a better person. Our family is closer. We are more patient. We celebrate the little things. We are his biggest supporters and we always will be. The world is a better place with Dylan in it!

Jennifer Sparks
Middletown, DE

My Mentor, My Son

CJ just turned 4 and was diagnosed at 2 1/2 yrs old. His Dr. recommended we contact Early Invervention at age 2 because he only had use of 1 actual word. They came in and within 3 months of working with him suggested we have him evaulated for Autism. When this came, I was thinking they were going to suggest ADHD (which his doctor mentioned would probably be diagnosed at age 5). He has the energy level for 20 kids wrapped up in 1 body. He keeps us on our toes and running after him! As I've always been a little different myself, I just accepted that he was never going to be the "typical" kid before we even got the diagnosis. So there was no greiving period for me as I had never had any expectations besides him to be the best that he can. He's now in Preschool Disabled program at school and loves it. All of his teachers and aides have fallen in love with his enthusiasm and character. It really is a joy to see him progressing so well when most of the stories I read and the research I did seem to have focused on the negative sides of ASD. Yes, it's work and yes, he has his moments. But his smile always reaches his eyes and he's so loving. He's taught me to look at the positives in life and not dwell on the small stuff. Remember, even on our toughest days there is always a silver lining somewhere, you just have to look for it!!

Krissy DeFrancisco
Hammonton, NJ

My son Aidan...Autism, leukemia, ADHD..and fighting against a medical perfect storm

When Aidan was about three, we started to notice some “quirks”. Things that the average person might not see. As a parent, they just didn’t seem right. Aidan would flip out at almost any loud noise. A public toilet and the hand dryers inside public bathrooms were nightmares waiting to happen. Reading and researching the autism spectrum disorder symptoms can be as stressful as actually working with a child that has the disorder.

Now with leukemia, the one constant is medicine. Whether it’s injected or swallowed, it’s always there. Aidan could not swallow a pill...so crushing and hiding became a new game. Applesauce, pudding, ice cream...whatever it took. Even with all the tricks and traps, Aidan would soon catch on and work himself up into such a tizzy..he would make himself throw up. Now the one thing that we need to save his life......he’s afraid of.

It just seems like there are more questions than answers at this time. Every day there are more and more trials and studies being completed. As a parent, you just hang on and go for the ride. Through it all, the one thing that the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis gave us was something we had never had before. It gave us a better understanding of what Aidan goes through on an everyday basis...thus allowing us to help him have as normal a childhood as he can.

If there is one thing I can say to both autism and leukemia, it’s this: “You have picked a fight with the strongest child I’ve ever seen. It’s a fight that you will NEVER win.”

Stay tuned...

Joey Maynard
Winston Salem, NC

Justyn and his struggle!

This is my son Justyn (in blue) and his older brother Blake having a sleep over in the livingroom. Justyn is 7 years old and is autistic along with having several different sensory disorders. He also is flat footed and has AFO braces. Justyn was full term but I knew within several hours that something was amiss. He was digesting his formula properly. He hit all his milestones late and for the first year of life he never weighed more than 12 pounds. After he hit two months of age no one was allowed to hold or touch him. He would freak out and scream. At a year old he was walking, starting to talk, but was still wearing 6-9 month clothing, we didnt put him in a front facing car seat until he was 2. Shortly after turning one Justyn was hospitalized with a serious blood infection. After a week in the hospital and a week at home with a PICU tube in his chest with medicine every several hours he finally got better. Within several days of stopping the medicine he stopped talking. At 18 months he was diagnosised with failure to thrive. At one and a half he started First Steps and began to learn sign language, he was also diagnosised with being flat footed and his ankles turned inward, he was also told he was low toned and the littlest thing wore him out. This is when his sensory issues kicked in and everything fell apart. He went to preschool for a year before being kicked out due to his tantrums and aggression, although they knew not to touch him. At the age of 6 he was diagnosised with seizures, and at the age of 7 he was diagnosised with Autism. He is struggling in school and with making friends. Although he has struggled for so long and is still struggling to this day I wouldn't change it for the world! He has grown so much and has come so far, he would give his heart for any of his friends and family!

Tami Hager
Elkhart, IN


This is Triston he was born April 30th, 2012 he was a full term pregnancy.He was my second son. My sons are 14 months apart. He was a rather quiet baby in comparison to his brother but, as they say every child is different. When it came to his milestones he didn't hit them at the "normal" times and I just chalked it up to him just be a late starter. He was growing fine he was a happy child. I started noticing things weren't quite right when he was about one years old and he had not said a single word not a moma or dada ever, he also would not alow any one but me touch him not even his own father which was heart breaking. He hated when anyone would come to visit he lots of anxiety around large groups and I just thought he was just anti social. I went to my sons doctor with my concerns and they told me the process to find out if he has autism is a long one. I jumped right in making calls having him evaluated for hearing and speech which was determined that he had a severe speech delay. So we then began the First Steps program and he is making huge strides in his therapy. It wasn't until July 15th, 2014 we found out that he does in deed have ASD at a level 2. We are were glad to finally get it on paper what we already knew.Triston amazes me everyday he has now learned to say moma and dada and he now claps and counts on his fingers there is a super smart kid just waiting to burst out and I love that I get to see him come out of his shell.He is amazing.

independence, MO

Diagnosed at 27

I had a pretty normal development as a kid. I made every milestone that a typical child would. At age 3, I stopped talking to everyone but my parents. My mom found out later it was selective mutism. I began to talk again when I was 10 years old. Despite the mutism, I excelled at school and was determined to be the best I could be. I graduated from high school with honors and went on to college. I thought that I had trouble communicating with people because the mutism had caused me to not learn social interaction properly. I found out when I was 27 that I actually had autistic disorder. The diagnosis was reassuring because I found out all of these quirks of mine from the huge obsessions with TV shows (right now it is Castle) and celebrities, to the awkwardness with communication was actually autism. I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome when I was 17 too because my younger brother had been diagnosed first. It happened like that with autism too. My brother was diagnosed many years before I was.

I have had some struggles with anxiety the last few years and I'm in therapy twice a week to help with that. I have one year left of my degree in Communications and Writing. My dream is to become a Television Writer and create my own TV show based on my life working in a grocery store and my struggles. I also want to write my memoirs and some novels. Writing basically is my life. I learned to communicate through writing because I had trouble doing it by voice. I think that is the reason I have become so passionate about it and want to do it for a career.

While having autism is hard, I feel that if I didn't have it I would not be who I am. Having autism makes me unique. It makes me, me.

Alyssa K.
Minneapolis, MN

Hagen's Story

Hagen seemed to be a perfectly normal, happy baby. When he was 18 months old, I became concerned that he didn't say common words such as "mama, dada, or cup", but he could identify all the letters of the alphabet, numbers, colors, and shapes. Hagen was not interested in other children. He was often obsessive about certain things. I couldn't keep him away from the tv and iPad. He was constantly throwing things, especially wood chips and sand on the playground. I knew in my heart something wasn't quite right. Because Hagen "looked" normal, it was hard to convince friends and family to take my concerns seriously. Hagen was finally diagnosed with high functioning ASD when he was 3 and a half years old. Since then we've put lots of interventions in place. He receives speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy. Hagen will be 5 in September. He is in a regular preschool classroom with a great support system. Thanks to an awesome team of people, Hagen has made tremendous progress. Although he sometimes struggles with social situations he has made friends and become quite the little social butterfly. We love Hagen unconditionally and he has been such a blessing to our family. He has taught us that it's ok to be different.

Amanda Frick
Gaston, SC

A Mission to Make a Difference

This is a story about giving back. It is an evolving journey of making a difference for others. It is with the greatest pleasure I introduce you to I Want Cookies Cause Collection, a collaborative effort utilizing children’s art to create stationery that will not only send smiles but provide favorable attention to the amazing group of people living with Autism today.

The concept is kids helping kids with Autism. Along the way we will introduce you to some of our budding artists who have helped make this line possible. Each contributing child has a story that will inspire a world of giving, love, understanding and acceptance.

Who am I, and why is Autism so important to me? I am Shira Rose, and my beautiful and oh so amazing 9 year old son Brooks is the inspiration of this heartfelt collection. I believe we can make a difference for him and so many living with and touched by Autism today.

Shira Rose
Cary, NC

Mom, I know I have Autism

Tonight as I tucked my sweet Brooks into bed he says to me in the most calm manner and with such great confidence "Mom, I know I have Autism. I promise that I will be patient with you". The look on his face reflected a form of wisdom. We had never really spoken about his having Autism before…not a true conversation about his having Autism so it really made me take pause. It all happened so fast but time seemed to stand still all at the same time. I gave him the biggest bear hug…told him I loved him with all my heart., left his room and tears poured from my eyes. I am not sure why I cried. It is a moment I will never forget.

Shira W. Rose
Cary, NC

'It's ok to be different. Vincent Van Gogh was different and he was the most brilliant painter of all times'

On the day he was born everyone commented on how alert Josh was. In fact he never slept, even after going home. He cried loudly and often, hated every piece of baby gear we owned. When I mentioned it to the doctor he immediately smiled and said 'Babies cry'.

At 18 months we noticed he did not answer to his name and spent his days opening and closing cupboards while closely watching the hinges, lining up and counting things and running. We used to say he had 2 speeds, fast and faster.

Shortly after his 3rd birthday we realized he could read. We were mesmerized but his preschool teachers were concerned with his behavior. He screamed and flapped his hands at school, refused eye contact and banged his head on the tables. AT the age of 4 came the diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was filled with a sense of relief and fear. Soon after he started OT, Play therapy and group therapy and I pulled him out of school as he was miserable.

Josh is 6 now. We continue homeschooling and he is the happiest he has been in a long time. He is thriving academically and seems to do better in controlled social situations. His meltdowns are less frequent and his anxiety lower. He is a very passionate child, his interests include Doctor Who, science and Minecraft. His idols are Bill Nye and Vincent Van Gogh. If you need someone to explain DNA, electrical circuits or insects' life cycles he is your guy.

He knows he is different, in fact one time he said 'It's ok to be different. Vincent Van Gogh was different and he was the most brilliant painter of all times' and the quote stuck. We pray he will always be this accepting of himself.

Sprigfield, MI
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