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'My son had autism. Then he didn't.'

One dad's story.

By Parenting Magazine Jan 28, 2013 1:52AM

I'm trying to hold him, but he's squirming. The airport lounge is packed with people, and I can feel all eyes on me: the dad who cannot appease his toddler. Brandy sees me struggling and comes up with a quick fix. She flips over the stroller. She places Jackson next to it. He begins to spin one of the wheels with his hand. He keeps spinning it. Over and over and over. He's completely absorbed. I look at Brandy quizzically. She shrugs.

Baby with sorting blocks // Photo: Veer via Parenting.com

Jackson was 3 years old at the time, and by all accounts—from mother’s intuition to the experts’ definition—he was on the spectrum. The behavioral psychologists saw what we saw but were hesistant to make an official diagnosis. His brain is still developing. So much can change in six months. So time passed. His clothes went from 4T to 5T. Birthday candles were lit, blown out, and saved in the kitchen drawer. By age 6, the appointments with the behavioral psychologists were over. The autism books came off my wife's nightstand. Our tears were redirected to other things like kindergarten graduations.
From Healthy Living: Study says for some children, autism symptoms fade
It's a mystery we still don't understand. Did he have autism and develop out of it? Did he ever have autism? Slowly but surely, experts are unraveling this developmental disorder, and yesterday a small but groundbreaking study may just prove that Jackson is not alone.
Bing: Can autism just go away?
The study, funded by the National Institute of Health, researched 34 individuals ages 8 to 21 who had been diagnosed with autism early in life. The study found that they no longer had the symptoms. The conclusion: Some people may age out of autism. Of course, the autism community is buoyed by the findings, but are cautious to say this is a common outcome. 
More: 10 moms changing the face of autism
Let's add to this discussion a study that appeared in Pediatrics last year. It focused on 61 children aged 14 to 35 months who were on the spectrum. Two years after their initial diagnosis, 20 percent of those children no longer met the ASD criteria, which suggests that either the children are improving or were misdiagnosed from the start.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of autism has consistently been on the rise. In 1998, it was 1 in 1,000. In 2002, it was 1 in 150. Today, it's 1 in 88. Is it our increasing awareness that’s inflating those figures? Is something mutating in our DNA? Does it lurk in our air or cleaning products or groundwater?
More from Healthy Living: What is autism, exactly?
That’s the thing with autism: There is no pathology. It’s not in the blood. Biopsies don’t detect it. It doesn’t appear when you shine a penlight into the pupil. It makes perfect sense that this disorder is represented in awareness campaigns by a puzzle piece.
More: Why I give my 9-year old pot
For our family, the autism spectrum was like the Alaskan winter. There was no light. The darkness went on and on and on. Then one day, a yolk-hued color broke across the horizon. And it stayed. But we haven't forgotten what the darkness was like.

By Shawn Bean at Parenting.com

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61Comments
Feb 1, 2013 6:49PM
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Read Thomas Sowell's book. The Einstein Syndrome. This "Autism Epidemic" is just a bunch of bunk created by psychologists looking to make a buck.

Feb 1, 2013 12:26PM
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The diagnosis criteria for classic autism is having problems with communication, social interaction and imaginative play.  The Other, not defined one has some of these problems but they are severe and pervasive. And of course Aspergers is it's own thing.

 

My almost 3 year old son has some symptoms but doesn't meet the criteria.  They school speech therapist we see has been pushing us to have him tested. I have refused.  I think they want to diagnose as many as possible so the children can get help, (with speech and such.) But  maybe the awareness is so high now people jump the gun.

Jan 31, 2013 9:44PM
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One thing I have found in common with ALL kids that have autism is that they have parents that REFUSE to say no.

 

Do they out grow it, or do they get treatment from people that teach them to learn to accept no for an answer?

 

 

Jan 28, 2013 5:43PM
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My daughter suddenly was amazingly normal. It was a BIG miracle!  It was like living with a whole different person. Nearly three years went by, she even completed a two year associate degree at a local community college.  We were so proud. We never thought we'd ever see that day. She was accepted to one of the decent 4-year universities and even qualified for some grant money.  In her first semester at the 4-year school, she began regressing NOTICEABLY. In fact, her downward spiral was so rapid that not only did her family become alarmed, but her school as well. We received a call from the dean of student affairs. She is now in a hospital where they are trying to stabilize her on medication. So, at least for my daughter, it came, it went and it came back!
Jan 28, 2013 2:40PM
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I have 3 sons and a daughter and one of my sons has autism, he was born healthy and he was talking and acting normal, years later he was diagnosed with autism I had no idea what autism was, no one in my family or my husbands family had or knew what autism is my son is 21 now and my husband died of cancer a brain tumor at 47 several years ago, I live in pain everyday as I watch my son growing and what autism has done to him, he started having seizures about 6 years ago and he has been on medication since, my neurologist does nothing to help me with his condition, I cant get any help to get him speech therapy since he only says a few words now and because I raised my kids alone when my husband died, I had no way to try to help my son get the help he needs, I have no family support so I am home constantly caring for him sometimes he doesn't sleep for two nights in a row and everyday he wakes up in the middle of the night his always restless and walking all over the house so I barely sleep or rest but I will do whatever it takes for my son the only thing I worry about is when I am gone if my other kids will be able to help him and care for him I am trying to prepare them when that time comes. If there was a miracle cure all  of us parents with autistic children would do anything to get it but I don't know of anything out there that can help my son. 1 out of 88 children are being diagnosed with autism today is a tragedy something has to be done, I always believed that the mercury in the MMR immunization shot is responsible for the autism syndrome as long as the FDA continues allowing the pharmaceutical companies to keep the mercury in the MMR shot I think a lot more children will be diagnosed with autism my husband was in medical school and worked in hospitals before he died and he always felt it was the mercury in the shot that caused our son to become sick. If more children continue to be diagnosed with autism at such a high rate the next generation will not be able to work or have families of their own and it will affect everyone if the doctors cant find a way to help people with autism.
Jan 28, 2013 2:32PM
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Growing up my mother was told by teachers that I was a day dreamer.  I'm 40+.

20 + years ago the 'problem' with children was ADHD.  A friend has a son with ADHD and listening to her I was able to see myself as possible having ADHD (no I've never been tested).  Her son went through many meds. - some did not work at all.  Now he is a productive taxpaying lawabiding citizen of our community taking no meds.  No he is not a rocket scientist. 

Parents and Schools want to have "children with problems" so they can get state funding and / or free medical and any other benifits so they can get to stay home and be lazy. 

Parents and Schools don't want to teach our children how to become productive educated citizens.  This is a symptom of a one world society. The have's and have not's.

Also it seams that people want the easy way out and all pharmaceutical companies 'want' to help. All that happens is that a 'cure' is found but the cure creates other problems.  Enter another med..cure..problem..med..cure..problem...........

Women need to have a full term (healthy) pregency, love your child and understand that all children do not develop at the same rate. When your child wants to walk they will, talk when they talk....

I'm still a day dreamer but I am a productive lawabiding tazpaying member of society. I do not receive any assistance for anything and don't want to. I am me.

 

Jan 28, 2013 2:13PM
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The one thing we know about autism is how much we don't know.  We don't understand what it is or why it is.  We don't know why some children respond well to the assorted therapies and why some children don't.  Because it is a spectrum disorder, I'm sure some children are misdiagnosed.  I'm also sure that some children are so mildly affected that they can appear to age out of the disorder. 

I don't think that we can make any blanket statements and be certain that we are correct.  A child that is severely affected is easy to diagnose and is unlikely to "outgrow" the disorder.  Is it possible that it is caused by an environmental factor that is eliminated from the environment?  Is it possible that it is caused by a virus that some children's immune systems can reject?

I know that my son demonstrated many autistic like symptoms as a very young child.  He didn't like to be touched.  Any loud noise would send him into hysteria.  Any change in routine would cause a total meltdown.  He had to be forced to make eye contact.  He could not be around strangers.  He could not be approached by anyone other than those people he knew well.  You could not turn on a vacuum cleaner if he was in the house.  He engaged in repetitive behaviors that seemed to soothe him.  His language skills were erratic and came and went. 

Then, one day, he changed.  It was abrupt.  He went to bed one night still hypersensitive to every nuance in his environment and woke up the next morning able to cope.  At the same time, all of his lingering allergy symptoms disappeared.  His itchy eyes went away.  His runny nose went away and he began interacting with other children.

Do I know what happened?  No.  I haven't any idea.  I just said a prayer of thanks and went about raising a normal, if shy and sensitive, child.

So I don't think we can say with any absolute certainty what is going on or why the autism incidence is on the rise.  When I first began to study autism it was a fairly rare disorder.  Now it is common.  A family would have one autistic child and three perfectly normal children.  Now families have two or three children and all have autism.  Does a disorder like this mutate?  Is it somehow contagious and passed from one child to another?  None of it makes much sense.

The person or persons who figure it out will probably win a Nobel prize. 

I have also wondered if we are looking at two different disorders.  The first disorder is true, classic autism and the second disorder is something that mimics autism but is caused by different factors and is more amenable to remission or treatment. 

Jan 28, 2013 2:09PM
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True autism NEVER goes away.  Autistics and Aspies will ALWAYS be somewhere on the spectrum.  They can learn social skills, but autism will always be a part of who they are.  I am the sister of an adult Aspie, and she has come a LONG way.  She is now a paid public speaker, educating neurotypicals about autism and Aspergers.  Aspies are smart people.  Society just needs to accept them as they are.
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