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    Posted March 30, 2012 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Life with autism: Share your story

    A Military Family's Journey with Autism

    Sometimes it would be easier if he didn’t look so normal. His ‘disability’ isn’t readily apparent. You can’t see it like a wheelchair or a pair of glasses, but it is ever-present. Our son, Ryan was diagnosed with AD/HD when he was 5 and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) when he was 6. PDD-NOS is on the Autism spectrum and generally characterized by eagerness to interact with peers, but may act socially different and be unable to make genuine connections. Children with PDD-NOS have difficulty reading facial expressions and relating to feelings of others. They are very literal and will most likely have difficulty understanding figurative speech and sarcasm.

    Our journey with autism started when my son was 2, but he was not diagnosed until age 6. We noticed things were different about him; he didn’t talk like kids his age, pointed when he wanted something and he walked late. He had difficulty writing and doing things that required fine motor movement, but was fascinated by lining up his toy cars, trains and planes. It was like Ryan was in his own little world.

    Ryan was scared of loud noises (vacuums, sirens, hairdryer, etc.), and hated baths. He had repetitive behaviors like touching other people’s hair, and became irritated when our schedule changed from the norm. As he got a little older, he became obsessed with Star Trek, Titanic, and disasters. He started to develop severe anxiety about his Dad leaving (Dad deployed to Iraq for 1 year and Afghanistan for 5 months), as well as storms and disasters.

    We went to specialists, but they just had the wait and see attitude. He was still young, and “he would probably grow out of it”. Well, he didn’t, so we pursued it with the local school district where we lived at the time. They saw deficiencies, but not enough for him to ‘qualify’ for educational services.

    Finally our son was diagnosed with ADHD, and then 2 years later, PDD-NOS. Being a military family, it was time for us to move. Finally we were starting to get somewhere, but now we had to move to a new state, which meant finding new doctors and specialists. Before we moved, his doctor felt that he needed occupational therapy and speech therapy to help him to thrive in school, so we began therapy.

    We met with new doctors after our move, and his neurologist suggested Applied Behavior Analysis or behavior therapy along with speech and occupational therapy. He told us that Ryan could really benefit from the behavior therapy, however, it meant a lot of hours of intensive therapy weekly and many families cannot handle the strain. Luckily enough our insurance covered most of the cost of the therapy, or otherwise, it would have been very difficult for us to handle financially.

    We moved again 1 1/2 years ago and Ryan is going to his third school in 5 years. Ryan has difficulty with change and adjusting and adapting to new environments, so moving every few years is extremely stressful for him.

    Ryan talks now, and he can go on and on about details of Titanic. He has a very good memory and does not let us forget it. He is a very happy child and builds new creations with his toys. He loves to camp and loves to be with his Dad, helping any way he can.

    Autism doesn’t define Ryan, but it is a part of who he is. Everyone has a gift, and he is our gift in our journey with Autism.
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