Thank you to this month's guest blogger, Kanetra Woods, for sharing her son's journey.
In light of National Autism Awareness Month, we're excited to have the opportunity to set aside a series of blogs that will educate the medical and patient communities about autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disability that ranges in severity and symptoms, and is nearly 5 times more common in boys than in girls.
EGL recently had the opportunity to speak with Kanetra Woods, a mother whose son, Emari, was diagnosed with autism at age 3.
Q: Prior to your son being diagnosed with autism, did you know anyone on the spectrum?
A: I had never heard of autism prior to my son’s diagnosis. After he received his 18-month vaccinations, his behavior changed. He stopped talking, only wanted to eat certain foods and would not acknowledge you when you were speaking to him. He also started covering his ears.
Q: What were your next steps?
A: After seeing the changes in his behavior, I expressed my concerns with the doctor. She explained that he may be autistic and made it sound as if it were a cold. I immediately started researching autism and the symptoms, and I just knew that it was true. He was diagnosed officially by the Indianapolis Public Schools after a series of testing.
Q: Can you explain to me your son’s diagnosis?
A: The autism scale is comprised of many different components. It starts at mild and can range to most severe. The level of severity is usually associated with the symptoms and behaviors that are visible. My son’s autism is milder and his inability to talk also increases that level.
Q: What was your reaction or response when he received his diagnosis? How did you feel?
A: I felt like a total failure. I immediately blamed myself. As a parent, you want to see your child progress not regress. It was like they had given my child a death sentence. The focus kept being on what he would never do. It was very hard and devastating.
Q: Is there any preconceived notion that you would like to clear up that people may think or assume about children or families who have children on the spectrum?
A: People automatically assume that autism means mental retardation, which is incorrect. When I tell people that my son is autistic, they always offer pity. We do not want pity; we just want our children to be treated fairly.
Q: What are some of the everyday challenges and joys?
A: My son requires supervision with grooming tasks such as brushing teeth, putting on lotion and tying his shoes. He likes the simplest things such as books, blocks and his favorite DVD, Angry Birds. Every day is a new experience with him.
Q: What’s something you’d like to tell the world about your son and his journey?
A: This journey changes your life. It teaches you about patience, love, endurance and hope. Don’t let anyone set limits for your child. Try everything possible and always explore the unknown. God gives special children to special people. Never give up!
Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to your son?
A: He always seems to surpass the limits that are set for him.
Woods says Emari's school provides numerous resources including a support group, which she partakes in bi-monthly. Among other tools, Emari participates in a program called Exceptional Learners, which according to Woods, helps identify his strengths and determines yearly goals. Emari is very active and is an avid participant in track and field sports during the Special Olympics. In Emari's spare time, he enjoys roller skating, playing basketball, bowling, nature walks, puzzles and iPad games.
For additional information about autism spectrum disorder, join our live webcast by clicking the image below.