The CDC released the new numbers regarding the rise of autism prevalence: 1 in 68. But these numbers really reflect the people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I assume there are many children, and even adults, who are undiagnosed because of the lack of autism awareness. The statistics concern not only the affected person, but also impact the families of those individuals.
I am one of the families raising an autistic son. An estimated 1 in 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with ASD in the United States. Imagine those odds. I couldn’t even consider those numbers until I had to face that reality for my son, Ray.
As usual, there’s never a dull moment when you have kids. Being a mother, I will always worry over my children. It’s part of taking on this awesome role. Yet when I had concerns about my son as a toddler, it was brushed aside as “boys develop slower than girls.” Even the pediatricians back then were not concerned, but they wanted to “wait it out,” before suggesting further evaluation.
Girls may mature faster than boys. Individuals develop at different rates and learn at their own pace, but I believe both genders should be able to master the developmental milestones at the appropriate age or time-frame. If the child has not, then it’s of vital importance to have he or she evaluated.
That “waiting period” had a significant effect in an early diagnosis for Ray. Since I remained suspicious about his developmental delays, especially in speech, I pursued a speech evaluation for him. Ray was around 2 ½ years old. After taking a detailed history and conducting her evaluation, the speech therapist suspected PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). She recommended further consultation with a Pediatric Neurologist/Developmental Pediatrician, and have Ray evaluated by an Audiologist, and Ophthalmologist to rule out other influencing factors.
The waiting list for a developmental pediatric consult was up to a year in my area, and the other surrounding areas. I didn’t realize that so many children were affected with developmental and neurological disorders. So I scheduled a consult with a Pediatric Neurologist in another state because I got one sooner with that particular specialist. The doctor diagnosed Ray with ASD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Now all those suspicions and worries turned into fears. I became paranoid about social stigmas and bullying.
Ray is different.
He’s not like other kids.
The kids will make fun of him.
He’ll struggle in life.
I had an idea of what Autism meant, but I wasn’t knowledgeable about the disorder. So I immersed myself in learning all that I can about ASD. I even drove myself crazy searching for a cure. There is no cure, only information about the possible causes, indications for early diagnosis, resources for treatment, and ongoing research. Had I known about Autism back then, I would’ve fought to seek early diagnosis and intervention. So I strongly stress this importance.
It’s like a cold, one can sense the oncoming signs, treat the symptoms, and hope the cold goes away soon. Yet unlike the cold, Autism won’t go away in days or weeks. The silver lining is that many affected people overcome their disabilities in years to come. These individuals eventually outgrow Autism to live happy and productive lives.
Imagine those odds.
I no longer imagine it, Ray is fighting the odds every day. He may not be “normal,” but he’s unique. He is different because he will make a difference in his life. He struggles, but it will only make him stronger. He has fears and setbacks, but with those challenges, he’ll learn to face them and conquer those obstacles head on.
Autism might be a disorder with a rising prevalence, but the diagnosis doesn’t define a person. Characteristics like determination, strength, compassion, and love defines a person. I can list many positive attributes, but these are the ones my son displays the most. Ray is quite a character, he’s well-loved, and I love him.
So when you look upon an autistic child, don’t dwell on the odds, celebrate the possibilities!
Come join me in celebrating Autism Awareness Month. World Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd. Check out the sites below to increase your awareness, and show your support to Light It Up Blue.
As always, Ray and I appreciate it and thank you. Please enjoy one of Ray’s favorite songs by The Script