After years of hoping and waiting, she got married when I was 11, and the next year, on April 20th, 2005, she gave birth to not only a girl, but a boy as well - twins! Trinity Grace and Lance Joseph. From the moment I met them, I was in love with them. I couldn't wait until they got a little older and they would actually be fun to play with (the baby years are kinda boring).
Trinity and Lance - age 2
However, tragedy struck. Lance was born with a condition called hypospadias, which is non-life threatening and easily fixed with a simple procedure (use caution when using Wikipedia). But they decided not to operate until he was a year old. He was put under anesthesia, and when he awoke, he was a different child. He stopped developing like normal one year olds. In fact, he started regressing. All the advances he had made were lost. He became silent, unfocused, and distant. After a year of doctors' visits, on April 2th, 2007, Lance was diagnosed with autism.
Life has been far from easy for my aunt and her family. Since Lance was diagnosed, their world has been turned upside down to take care of him - dozens of pills, therapies, diet changes, etc. have made up their daily lives. Lance is now almost eight, and because of my aunt's endless love and relentless diligence, he has made leaps and bounds in progress. Although we are realistic about the likely outcome the future holds for him, our faith and optimism keep us hopeful that his drastic improvement will one day mean he is no longer held back by autism.
My aunt is a contributing author of the book The Thinking Moms' Revolution: Autism Beyond the Spectrum, which is kind of like a Chicken Soup for the Moms of Autistic Kids' Souls. She, along with many other moms, shares her story of the hardships and successes of having a child on the Autism Spectrum. I encourage y'all to buy it on April 9th and read it for a different look at what it's like to raise a child who is autistic.
Autism awareness has always been a cause close to my heart, even before my cousin was born. When I was in elementary school, I spent a lot of time hanging out with the special education students, and two of them have autism. My senior prom date has Asperger's Syndrome. I went to a presentation about cattle herding just to listen to Temple Grandin speak, and actually got the opportunity to meet her.
My prom date, Zack
Meeting Temple Grandin
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. 1 in every 50 kids is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. You might even know someone who is diagnosed with an ASD. Now that you're aware...it's time to figure out what exactly is causing kids to regress like this so we can keep the statistics from growing any more than they already have.
Lance is one of the most special people I know. Even though he has trouble communicating his thoughts and feelings, you can see in his eyes that he knows nothing but love. He is creative and smart and kind and silly, he just doesn't know how to express himself sometimes. And he is so fortunate to have such an amazing family - a passionate father, a patient sister, and a mother who would move mountains for him (and a cousin who visits him as often as she can). I love him so much, and I hope one day, he'll be able to express himself fully.
If you know someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, feel free to leave a comment with your story. I would love to hear your experiences!
PS: Here are some more pictures of Lance for you to enjoy.
Checking out his mom's new 'do - age 3
Receiving the Knights of the Guild Award at school
First day of school
Lance loves drawing! This is a "can" (note the pop-tab at the top). He gave this to his dad and said, "Drink!"
Another Lance masterpiece. Can you coffee fans guess what this is of? ...the Starbucks logo!
The cousins - December 2012