{Meet David | Autism Awareness}

“David is really developing a personality, he is funny and playful. When I look at David, I see a happy, loving, intelligent, creative little boy and I hope others see this as well.

-David’s mom

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How can you not see the little boy his mother describes when looking at this little face?! Meet David, he loves farm animals, dinosaurs and books. He also loves going to the park and being outside.

I met David and his parents a year ago when I started up this project. In fact, we made our television debut together (you can see it here)! There are some people you just ‘click’ with and that’s the way I felt about meeting David and his parents. Their love and absolute devotion to their son are so evident. It’s especially telling how patient and selfless they are when you start talking to them about how autism has impacted their lives. Justin, David’s father planned on taking a brief paternity leave and remains a stay at home dad for 4 year later. Most days are focused on David’s treatment schedule and supporting him in achieving the most progress he can and that is a full time job. David’s mother tells me “We are very sleep deprived!” (which, I can imagine is very true since David doesn’t nap and is up around 4am everyday!). But, despite the challenges, Autism has made us more patient, more able/willing to celebrate the small things and has helped us have more clarity of what our priorities are.”

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She and I hope that this project will help to bring awareness and educate others about autism with this project.  As you all know, autism presents itself in each individual in a different way and one goal I have is to reduce the stereotypes associated with the diagnosis. I always ask parents what stereotypes they hear and  David’s mom was honest and canid, saying people have a hard time believing he has autism since he’s an attractive child. She also says that as a parent, the other most painful stereotype they encounter is when people say “I’m so sorry” or “That must be so terrible” in reference to having a special needs child. Writing this post and re-reading that made my heart hurt again, since I think it is not out of malice that people say flippant comments, but naivety.

David is a beautifully bright boy, with sparkly eyes and a personality to match. I can’t wait to see what he does in the years to come and I am so grateful to his family for sharing their experiences with me.

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I always love to incorporate the things parents tell me when writing these posts and David’s mother wrote something that I had to include in full. I will leave you with David’s story:

“I would like to be able to say that Autism has made me a better parent, a better person. But, I’m not sure that is true. Certainly, Autism has made me a different parent, a different person. David was diagnosed with Autism on May 31, 2013 at 29 months of age. Before David turned one, I had concerns that he was displaying autistic tendencies. My husband and I were first time parents and didn’t know exactly what “normal” or “typical” was, but it seemed from day one that we had to work so much harder at being parents to David than what we observed in other parents and their children.

Throughout David’s first 2 ½ years of life, we shared our concerns with many. We heard, “He’s a late bloomer”, “Boys always talk late”, “He’ll talk when he’s ready” and countless other comments that at the time were both frustrating and reassuring. We questioned and doubted ourselves as parents, why did others think our child was “fine” and yet we couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t, as badly as we wanted to.

For us, the road to diagnosis was more distressing than the actual diagnosis. By the time we self-referred ourselves to Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP), we felt very alone, very confused, and most of all very exhausted. With diagnosis came a treatment plan and an amazing team, which resulted in us feeling less confused, less alone and far more hopeful. 

Grief as Autism has brought a sadness that I had not previously known as despite David’s progress in treatment, each day presents painful reminders of his unique struggles in comparison to his neurotypical peers.

Although I am a Psychologist, an expert in human behavior, Autism has the ability to make my own child’s behavior so unpredictable, so uninterpretable that I’m often left guessing how to best help him through the current obstacle.

And so…we live by the words spoken by autism advocate, Dr. Bernard Rimland, after his son was diagnosed with autism in 1958, “This is War” and along with David’s treatment team, we’ll keep fighting.”

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Photographer Madison WI

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