John was diagnosed with autism when he was two years and seven months old. At the time, he had about fifty word approximations, severe behavioral problems and was isolated in a world of self-stimulation and self-injury. He also had night terrors three to four times per week, which kept me up a lot. Sleepless nights were extraordinarily difficult because I was pregnant with my daughter, Alyssa, and my husband could not help me at since he was recovering from a traumatic brain injury. He was in a motorcycle accident when I was seven months pregnant with our daughter. Since John’s diagnosis, our lives and our family have changed forever.
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Jessica was diagnosed with Autism/PDD at age two and a half. She is non-verbal, but has learned to use sign language to communicate with family, friends and teachers. Although Jessica is non-verbal, she is high functioning in many areas. We knew something was wrong when Jessica suddenly lost her few, but developing verbal skills at eighteen months. She also used to walk on her tiptoes, which we thought was so cute at the time. When a friend of ours noticed that Jessica was avoiding eye contact, we just thought she was being obstinate.
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Michael is a bright, cheerful and energetic three-year old, who at first impression appears like any other little boy of his age. He is very verbal, subject to the limitations of his disability. If you ask him just right, he can tell you his name, his age and his phone number. He knows our names and will notice you as well as say “Hi” if you look into his eyes. He has a great smile and puts his fingers in his ears if he doesn’t like what he hears. He knows a few songs, including “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star” and “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. He likes TV, but is always asking for “music on!” .
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Alex was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. At the time, we pursued several diagnoses and he was labeled both PDD-NOS and Autistic. It is clear now that despite the fact that he has some great skills, the accurate diagnosis was autism. Alex has participated in our local school system since the age of three. In pre-school, his education consisted of a home-based Applied Behavioral Approach (ABA) program, special day class and regular preschool with an aide. From kindergarten through third grade, he was fully integrated in a mainstream classroom with the support of an aide as well as some home-based services and speech therapy.
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