My cousin’s son was born on November 11, 2003 and he was perfect. With a curious nature and an adorable smile, he always seemed to be in a hurry to hit the next milestone. He crawled at four months and barely a month later was walking. However, as his first birthday approached we noticed something odd; he still could not speak, using only baby babble to communicate.
Days morphed into weeks which morphed into months and still nothing happened. We all knew something was wrong but were either unsure what that was or unwilling to accept it. Then came the devastating news: he was autistic.
Autism is a developmental disorder which appears in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.
Contrary to common assumptions, the disorder covers a wide spectrum of symptoms from social awkwardness to a complete inability to interact and communicate.
The disorder has become one of the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the world and currently, there are approximately one million individuals living with the condition in the U.S.
Statistics show that more children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with autism this year than cancer, diabetes, Down’s syndrome and AIDS combined with a ratio of four boys to every one girl.
Currently, there is no universally accepted cause of the disorder and no known cure. Families and individuals with the condition have simply learned to adapt and adjust as best as possible.
April is Autism Awareness Month and I am urging everyone to do their part in some small way to help support the individuals and families of the individuals living with this condition by visiting www.autism-society.org to learn more about the disorder.
Today my cousin’s son’s speech has improved. He says words, counts his numbers and his ability to write, which was also affected by the disorder, has improved. He’s still as curious as ever, with the same adorable smile and to us, he’s still perfect.
Digna Joseph is a senior mass communication major from Gros Islet, St. Lucia.