Brandon, age 2
Krystal knew the moment she looked into Brandon's eyes that something wasn't right. He is 2 years old now and has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, which is on the autism spectrum. Krystal is lucky enough to have her mom nearby to help with trips to therapy and says her husband, Alan, keeps her "sane."
Congratulations are in order for Krystal, Alan, and Brandon — who, as of just last week, have a new family member ... baby Alexis.
Here, Krystal shares her story with us.
How old was your son when you first suspected he might have autism? What were those initial signs?
Brandon was a little over a year old when I started noticing little things that seemed off with him. Of course everyone thought I was a bit crazy then, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. He loved sitting on the floor, spinning the wheels on his toy cars for long periods of time. He freaked out anytime his schedule changed or someone made him go from one activity to the next. He also had a tendency to flap his arms and get a bit violent at times.
In those first moments when you found out your son's diagnosis, how did you react? And how did that reaction change over time?
I knew he had it before I even walked in those doors. I didn't want him to have it, but I knew we needed to get him help. My reaction was calm, but a little disappointed. I wished so hard that I was wrong about it. Now I have accepted it 100%. I have grown to love some of his little quirks. The only time it really bothers me is when other people don't understand, and don't try to understand, before claiming your child is just "bad."
What is his exact diagnosis? And what does that mean in laymen terms?
PDD-NOS is what he has. I'm honestly not too sure how it's different from other diagnoses.
What are 3 things you wish someone would have told you about autism that you had to learn on your own?
- All kids with autism are different. Just because my kid has issues with a certain thing doesn't mean all autistic kids have the same problems.
- That people will sometimes stare and make rude remarks, but try not to let them get to you. Hold your head up high and know you are doing the best you can with your child. Don't let people tell you autism comes from bad parenting — because it most certainly does not.
- All the therapies and classes are very time consuming, but completely worth it! There's nothing better than watching your child meet the challenges they are faced with.
What or who has been your greatest resource for information and support during this time?
My best resource for information and support has been the Autism/Asperger's Awareness Group here on CafeMom. (You must be a member of CafeMom to view the discussions in this group.) My mom has also been a huge help getting him to therapy when I can't, and my husband has been my rock. He helps me stay sane.
What's been the most challenging part of dealing with a child with autism?
The most challenging thing for me was trying to figure out how to correct some of his behaviors and help him get over some of his many fears. It took us a long time to convince him that trash bags weren't harmful.
Tell us something that makes your son special or unique.
My son doesn't talk very much. What makes him unique is that you can tell so much from his eyes. They are really expressive. You can usually tell how he's feeling with just one look into his big blue eyes.
Finally.... The debate around the cause(s) of autism is very heated right now. What do you think causes autism?
I think it's an environmental thing. I know that, in my son's case, it was not from the vaccines (though some may be). He was always a little off.