According to the Autism Society of America, some of the early signs of autism are:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
For more information on autism, click here.
My husband and I have an 11-year-old son with autism named Gabriel. When Gabriel received his diagnosis at age 3, I had absolutely no knowledge of autism. It was never mentioned in my college psychology courses, nor in the special education course I took for my master’s degree in elementary education. One of my college roommates had a younger brother with autism who lived in an institution, but I had no idea what that meant.
Although I visited her home on numerous occasions and got to know the rest of her family very well, I never met this brother. For me, therefore, the past eight years have been a learning process. The learning has occurred on several levels: first, of course, was finding out what autism is and how it affects Gabriel; second, learning what resources exist in our community and which would be most beneficial for Gabriel; and third, learning how to connect to the greater autism community.
On a different note, I believe that as important as it is to learn about autism, I don’t let autism define my family. I would never deny that Gabriel has autism, but he is so much more than a label—he’s a wonderful, sweet and loving boy who gives us great happiness. And while we deal with his special needs every day, we are first and foremost a family: going to school, attending baseball games, having cookouts with friends, etc. For my husband and me, it has been critical that Gabriel be part of our family in all respects, and part of his community as well.