Mary Anne is a beautiful 8 year old little girl with Autism. She has no verbal skills but that doesn’t stop her from being the happiest and most affectionate young lady I’ve ever met. Her big brown eyes sparkle when she smiles, and her whole face glows. Within seconds of our meeting she was attached to me like a shadow. She loves to hug, hold hands, and play with my hair. Her mother is also young and beautiful, and has just given birth to a new baby girl several months ago. Mary Anne loves her little sister, but also gets a bit jealous, as would any child.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching. There are some important behaviors and characteristics that a parent should be watchful of as well. These will mostly be: a lack of expressions, such as no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter; no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months; no babbling by 12 months; no back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months; no words by 16 months; no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months; and any loss of speech, babbling, or social skills at any age.
Jeff is an extremely intelligent young man of about 10 years of age. He has cerebral palsy, but despite that he has the wittiest and greatest sense of humor. It was apparent right away that he had made a giant impact on the people involved with this church group by the way they all came to greet him with such warmth and love. Jeff loves to read and tell stories. Volunteers and the other children gather around the table to listen to his story time. He is a very special young man and it’s so very easy to become attached to him within minutes of making his acquaintance.
Cerebral palsy is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first 2 years of life, while the baby's brain is still developing. Symptoms are usually seen before a child is 2 years old, and sometimes begin as early as 3 months. Parents may notice that their child is delayed in reaching, and in developmental stages such as sitting, rolling, crawling, or walking.
Symptoms of spastic cerebral palsy, the most common type, include:
• Muscles that are very tight and do not stretch. They may tighten up even more over time.
• Abnormal walk (gait): arms tucked in toward the sides, knees crossed or touching, legs make "scissors" movements, walk on the toes.
• Joints are tight and do not open up all the way (called joint contracture).
• Muscle weakness or loss of movement in a group of muscles (paralysis).
• The symptoms may affect one arm or leg, one side of the body, both legs, or both arms and legs.
It’s been a blessing to work with these special children, not because they have special needs, but because they are beautiful deep within. I hope I can make a difference in their lives, the way they have made such a wonderful difference in mine. I look forward to spending many years watching them achieve beyond their disorders.