Although born prematurely in the U.S., Joshua arrived as a fighter. Although his many labels of cerebral palsy, cortical blindness, and autism sound daunting, he is beating the odds. Joshua has a coy smile, loves eating his way around Central America (where he's traveling with his family), never meets a stranger he doesn't like, and has a ready smile for new friends he makes around the world.
Julia, who was born in China, has profound autism and reactive attachment disorder, diagnoses that few recognize on meeting her. She now lives in Mexico with Joshua, who is her adopted brother. We cannot imagine our lives without our helpful, attentive, baby-loving Julie-girl. Her wry smile and amazing progress are a testament to what a child can gain by living life on the road.
This is Alex. He wanted to use only one word to describe himself, and said, "I'm FABULOUS!" His favorite things are video games, Minecraft, sea lions, and Legos. Alex says, "Autism is a great thing. No kidding. It makes me special and creative." He is also energetic, smart, and has a knack for improv comedy. When he grows up, he wants to be a scientist and a video game programmer. You can read about Alex's adventures at seriouslynotboring.com. He says that if someone is different, "You should treat them nicely, kindly, and give them good respect."
Evelyn is 8 years old. She is a ray of sunshine in every room she enters. Her smile and laugh are infectious. Her heart is true and kind. Because you can't "see" autism she is often misunderstood. She teaches me to slow down and take nothing for granted -- and to always look for the good!
Tristen is a good brother, has a kind heart, and loves his cats. He never forgets to do his chores or to read his scriptures and pray every night. He strives for academic excellence, especially in science and agriculture.
Chloe is 10. She loves going to the zoo, anything Frozen, and building things. She is always learning and growing and pushing herself, little by little expanding her comfort zone. To know her is to love her.
Camryn is 14. She loves reading, listening to music, and playing with her dog. She loves to give hugs and her smile lights up a room! She is the definition of unconditional love.
Norrin is a 9-year-old who loves playing video games and building Legos sets. He can spend hours drawing pictures, which amazes me because there was a time in his life when he didn't have the strength -- or desire -- to hold a pencil. He is bright, funny, and loving, and he has a fierce sense of independence. Norrin's future is as promising as anyone else's!
Aria was born in the Sultanate of Oman. She's confident and creative, and likes traveling, optical illusions, reading, writing, drawing, and computer graphics.
"I enjoy long walks to the park, playing with cars, Nerf guns, sword fighting, superheroes, watching movies, being tickle-attacked by my parents, throwing the ball for my dog, riding my bike, snuggles, and reading books for bedtime. Oh, and I'm a huge fan of bananas! I was born over two months early and weighed under 4 pounds at birth; I spent the first 45 days of my life in the NICU."
"I've been working very hard in ABA [Applied Behavioral Analysis] for over two years now, and I've gone from nonverbal and spinning wheels to [being] a chatterbox of random thoughts with a fantastic use of my imagination. I know my shapes, colors, numbers, and letters, and I'm learning sight words now. I love my parents and Grammie and Papa very much, and I'm learning how to play with other kids my age. My parents say they are blown away by how far I've come, and they look forward to seeing all the amazing things I'll continue to do."
More than anything, Henry (shown with his neurotypical brother, Sam, age 4) loves to make "his" people laugh. He also loves to wrestle, run, swim, and hit baseballs and steal bases. He is authentic, smart, hilarious, and kind of a pain in the butt sometimes.
Will is a joy maker who loves: NFL football, going fast, watching traffic, reading books (especially Dr. Seuss and nursery rhymes), being in charge of the remote control, hanging with his best buddies at school, and riding the school bus. He also loves Mommy and Daddy, Ann and Chris, Grandma and Grandpa, Nurse Anna, and pancakes with lots of syrup! Will has both cerebral palsy and autism, and has been a warrior through 35 surgeries and procedures. He is his mother's muse and sunshine and a daddy's boy.
Kenneth is a clever and kind-hearted teenager. He loves comic books, Star Wars, vintage video games, and animals. He has a tech services internship and runs a blog at bayareagamers.net. He plans on taking a Japanese class in the summer. He picked out this photo -- it's the one from his business cards.
Logan (right) and Gavin (left) both have Asperger's syndrome. They love Legos and video games, but most of all they love each other! They are the sweetest brothers you could ever imagine. Whoever said those on the spectrum lack empathy have obviously never seen the bond of brothers. They are my everything.
Liam is a happy, energetic 7-year-old who likes playing outside, being around his family, playing in water, laughing with his brother, and listening to Magic Tree House books. He's learning to communicate using Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and an iPad, and he's eager to learn. He loves food, and helps a lot in the kitchen and around the house. Funny, free-spirited, and joyful, Liam is a light in our household.
Ron is non-verbal, but he communicates with a letter board, RPM, and some typing and handwriting. He loves music and books and writing poetry. His favorite subjects are math and science, and he enjoys using the the iPad and technology, cooking, swimming, watching football, playing tennis and cricket. His favorite football team is Manchester United, and his favorite players are Sachin Tendulkar, Wayne Rooney, and Andy Murray. Ron also loves the sea, the sun, and traveling with his family.
Malcome (shown with his sister Maxine) loves swimming, hiking, and taking things apart to see how they work. He has a small business selling small appliances that he has repaired. He is also wonderful with little ones.
Daniel (on the right) loves his iPad and anything related to Phineas and Ferb.
Emile (in the middle) loves his Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Actually, anything to do with trains.
Aidan (shown with his sister) is sweet, affectionate, and loves to spend time with his family and close friends. On a daily basis he enjoys family walks, jumping on the trampoline with his 8-year-old sister, and swimming in the pool when the weather allows. He is nonverbal but has recently started using stencil boards and RPM to learn and communicate with his family and friends.
He particularly loves learning about sharks, dolphins, whales, and other sea life. He recently has taken to [liking] weekend trips in the family RV, and is excited for camping trips. He is such a joy for us to have in our lives. I feel that his differences make all of us around him better, stronger, and more caring people.
Brayden was diagnosed with severe autism at age 2, but he is now considered to be very high functioning. He has a fantastic vocabulary and communication skills that are well advanced of his age. Brayden wants to be a meteorologist when he grows up.
Philip is an advocate and blogger who loves reading, swimming, and soccer. He communicates through typing and has his own blog in which he expresses his ideas and experiences as a person with autism at faithhopeloveautism.blogspot.com. He aspires to be a professional writer someday.
Marky is kind and funny, and he loves to make you smile. When he is not mastering his video games, he may be eating pizza or blackberries. He is an honorary member of the middle-school track team and completes Legos sets in record time. He loves his two sisters, his two doggies, and he loves going to the movies on the weekend.
Paulino was diagnosed with autism at just 30 months. In addition to autism, he had ADHD, some disorganized/schizophrenic behavior, and epilepsy. He was previously in school and therapy for years, but he is now being homeschooled successfully with a natural learning approach. He relies on RPM, his iPad, and Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for speech; with these and a combination of other strategies and medicine, he is progressing to a stage where he may no longer be considered nonverbal. His ability to produce words appropriately and in context on his own, with no prompting, has been a major progression.
To describe "D," an amazing 14-year-old with autism, is an exercise in competing adjectives: loving, hardworking, stoic, heroic, angelic, elusive, endearing, silent, raucous, enduring, strong, patient, and forgiving. He is nonverbal and complex, but by no means noncommunicative. He loves spinning his beads, relaxing on the hammock, rough-housing with his loved ones, and basking in the waves of the ocean and pool time at the local gym. He loves fiercely. He loves loyally. And he is the living epitome of what is truly important in life.
Brothers Liam (center) and Aiden (left) like surfing, skiing, and being on the water. Liam enjoys trains and he dreams of going to Africa (his mom hopes to make that happen next year). Aiden loves music, art, surfing, and the beach. He is a free spirit who wants to hit the road in a camper with his mom and brother.
Alex (left) is a big fan of VeggieTales. He enjoys drawing and music, and he is thinking about getting into animation when he's older. For now, he spends his time honing his art and watching videos whenever he can.
Willy (right) is an anime enthusiast. He absolutely loves all things gaming and intends to be a video game designer when he grows up. He's even thinking of learning Japanese so he can work for Nintendo!
Ben (front) is also an artist, though he prefers to concentrate on logos. He especially likes to recreate the logos of the FBI and Paramount Pictures. He loves movies, books, and stories of all stripes, but his favorite artist is still Dr. Seuss.
Parents discuss the happy and difficult moments of raising kids with autism.