Stories about: autism

Nick: Overcoming his fears to make a difference for others

Nick, who was part of a new clinical trail for autism, walks through a field.

People decide to participate in a clinical trial for lots of reasons. For 14-year-old Nick Brown, it came down to wanting to make a difference in the world.

Diagnosed with autism at age 5, Nick has had a lifelong aversion to hospitals, and especially to needles. Yet, when his parents told him about a new clinical trial for a medication for kids with autism, he decided to give it a try.

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Autism: Answers to common questions

April is Autism Awareness Month and you may have noticed there’s a lot in the news about autism. Several TV shows now feature lead characters with autism (Atypical, The Good Doctor and Big Bang Theory, among others). Even Sesame Street has a character, Julia, who has autism. More and more children — up to one out of 59 — are being diagnosed with autism. But what exactly is this condition, how does it affect children and what can you do to help?

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When it comes to autism, it takes a village

Emmett, who has autism, peeks out from behind a fence. It’s Autism Awareness Month, and as the mom of a significantly autistic child, Emmett, age 7, it’s a time to reflect on my child’s journey from non-verbal to moderately conversant, reading, doing simple math and enjoying so much of his life.

It started when Emmett was 2 ½,  with Dr. Leonard Rappaport, a developmental pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. I was extraordinarily fortunate to find “Dr. Lenny,” as my son calls him. He entered our lives and helped me transition from terrified, lost parent to empowered autism community member and peer leader. He gave me an autism vocabulary and believed in me as a parent before I was prepared to believe in myself. Dr. Rappaport truly gave me the greatest gift: a starting point for my child’s journey. He told me he believed in me and he believed in my son. Leonard Rappaport changed me as parent and as a human, as I learned to move forward and take a lead in guiding others. Helping other parents in the autism community is now my passion.

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‘One size fits all is not our norm.’

Mother embraces teen son with autism

The other day, I sat in a café and watched as a mom walked in with two kids in tow. I didn’t notice much while sipping my coffee, but soon the family’s conversation broke my train of thought. The girl, maybe 4, was talking to the waitress about the menu. She wanted extra bacon and a muffin with no nuts because of her allergies. She knew her limitation and could express what she needed.

I was happy for the girl and her mom, and at the same time I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids like my son, Anand, who can’t have those types of conversations. And I thought about the families like mine who care for them. Walking into a café would be such a huge struggle for many of us — the anxiety around crowds and the fear of a meltdown for unknown reasons prevents us from even thinking about going out for breakfast.

We all want the world for our children, but sometimes just surviving becomes our day-to-day life.

But yet, I marvel at human nature.

When my son was born, I experienced immediate joy and sometime later came anger, frustration, sadness and denial. For many parents of children with autism or other special needs, parenting is challenging right from the start. For others, they face challenges more gradually.

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