Many of you may remember me mentioning in my New Releases for April blog that April is one of my favorite months because it is National Autism Awareness Month. The reason behind this is because my son Dylan has autism. Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Autism is becoming increasingly more prevalent as it is now diagnosed in 1 out of every 110 children and of those, 1 in 70 are boys. This means it is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. But enough about statistics, I want to tell you about Dylan.
From the time Dylan was very little, my husband and I noticed that he wasn’t progressing at the same rate that other kids his age were. He did so many activities later than others: hold his head up, crawl, walk, talk, speak in sentences, etc. He didn’t play socially with other kids, was extremely sensitive to any loud noises/sounds, and he struggled to do certain simple tasks. When we would talk to his pediatrician about it, he told us that some kids just did things at different times, so we didn’t think much about it. Later, we changed pediatricians (which was a blessing!) and when Dylan went for his 3-year check-up, we voiced our concerns to the new doctor. He saw what we saw (finally!) and referred us to a neurologist, who then referred us to a child behavior and development specialist at the University of South Florida. It was a long process as they had waiting lists because children were seen in “blocks”. (Thankfully, today it’s a much speedier process.) The wait killed my husband and me. We experienced so many sleepless nights and I cried more times than I could count. We felt like we had waited years already (which was pretty accurate) and we didn’t want to wait anymore. We just wanted to know so that our little boy could get the help he desperately needed. Dylan was finally seen and tested in May 2004 (at four years old) and was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. We had a feeling that he was autistic so while it was heartbreaking at the time, it was also a relief because we finally knew. The specialists informed us that Dylan was on the milder end of the spectrum, so we counted our blessings for that.
We moved to Georgia in August 2004 and my husband and I agreed that I would quit my job and stay home with the kids (my daughter was 4 months old by this time) because it would be better for them. One of the very first things I did was register Dylan for Pre-K. The school system where we live is phenomenal when it comes to special education services and we feel truly blessed by the many exceptional teachers Dylan has had over the years. They have helped him strive in so many ways. He is very bright kid and loves to read, but is distracted easily and still lacks the social skills of children his age. He often prefers his own company and enjoys what he calls “my time”. In fact, he has only started seeking out other kids his age to play with in the last year or so. He works very hard and has maintained an A/B honor roll status and perfect attendance since first grade. He also recently placed third in his school’s Spelling Bee and reached the 250 AR point club, which is something we never could have imagined happening when he was diagnosed. Needless to say, we are so very, very proud! He still has his little quirks, but everyone knows that that's just Dylan. :) He and his infectious smile have opened our eyes (and our hearts) to view everything in a positive light. He has taught us to appreciate every single accomplishment, whether great or small. He still struggles, but I believe that it just makes him stronger and the end results even sweeter. God had a plan for me to be Dylan’s mom and I’m so glad He did. Yes, my son has autism, but we don’t let it get us down because we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Like I said, we consider ourselves lucky that Dylan is on the milder end of the spectrum; however, so many families aren’t as lucky. Some children never speak and some need to be cared for for the rest of their lives. My husband and I hope and pray that Dylan will be able to live on his own someday. Only time will tell. And if he can’t, we’re fine with that.
In the meantime, we will do our part to help Dylan and children like him. One of the things we do to help is walk. Yes, walk. Last year, we put together a team (Dylan’s Dream Chasers) and participated in the Georgia Walk Now for Autism walk and what a wonderful experience it was! 20,000 participants gave up a Sunday morning to walk 2 miles in support of this worthy cause and a lot of money was raised. They had so many games and activities geared towards autistic children and valuable information for their parents and grandparents. It was amazing.
This year, we are continuing our tradition by raising money and participating in the walk on May 23 in Atlanta. I know that most of you don’t live near Atlanta and are unable to walk with us, but I’d like to ask that if you are able, that you please consider supporting our team by donating to this wonderful cause.
Dylan’s Dream Chasers team page
I thank you from the bottom of my heart and will leave you with this – a question that is often asked is, “Why do you walk?” My reply:
Because from the moment you were born I knew you would change our lives forever.
I walk for your future.
I walk for your infectious smile; no matter how bad the day seems, seeing your smile changes everything.
I walk for the day we can go to a movie without you covering your ears through most of it.
I walk for the day that you may experience love.
I walk for the children who can’t.
I walk for the parents who are in denial and don’t want to believe their child has a disorder.
I walk because you are my son and I love you with all my heart.
Do you know someone affected by autism or one of the autism spectrum disorders?
For more information about autism and Autism Speaks, please visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/