I cannot let the month of April pass without mentioning that it's Autism Awareness Month! Autism affects 1 in every 150 children. Those statistics have risen dramatically in the last several years.
When Kameron was about 18 months old we noticed that something was different about him. He lined his toys up obsessively. All kids line toys up, but he would take his cars into the kitchen and put one car in each square... exactly the same distance from each other... facing the same direction... in the same order... every time. When he wasn't looking we would switch 2 of the cars around. He would walk back in, stare at the cars, and calmly switch them back.
He was obsessed with these:
He took them everywhere. He could stack them up so fast and then nestle them back together again before you even knew what happened.
Eventually he lost the few words that he had. He was frustrated because he couldn't communicate his wants and needs. His meltdowns happened several times a day. If we were out walking he would get mad and do the "flop and drop". One day he dropped and I instinctively held his arm and his elbow popped out of its socket. It was awful. He used to cry so hard he would forget to breathe and pass out.
Kameron didn't like to be touched. He rarely liked to be hugged. He didn't want anyone invading his space or touching his things. He mostly played by himself and many times would shut himself in his room for hours... he lived in his own world. We would have to coax him out to come join us and get him to play with Kassidy. His obsession moved on eventually to anything round. He loved pool rings and would carry 3 in each hand everywhere he went. When we moved here from California he stole our kitchen clock while we were unpacking. He carried that thing around everywhere.
He had major sensory issues... he couldn't stand anything sticky, play-doh, sand, or anything like that. He LOVED Rice Krispie treats but couldn't stand to touch them, even if they were wrapped in a paper towel. I used to feed them to him, it was just last year that he was finally able to hold one on his own. He had an aversion to a lot of different food, different textures, colors, and even smells would make him gag and throw up. His food list quickly dwindled down to 5 or 6 items.
Before we left California I voiced my concern to his pediatrician several times. He told me "He's a boy, he's a second child... give him time. He's fine." Mommy instinct told me he wasn't. When we moved here in February 2004,I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Kennedy. In March, I went to my first OB appointment at Fort Campbell. I knew something had to be done for Kameron, but I didn't know where to start or who to ask. I walked onto the elevator at the hospital and there was a big sign:
Are you concerned about your toddler's development?
So, I called the number. They brought him in and tested him. He was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). It's on the Autism spectrum right under Aspergers. When the developmental pediatrician told us the diagnosis, she was very sensitive. I think she expected us to fall apart, but really, it was a relief for Frank and me. We had known something was going on with Kam for a long time and to us this was a pass to get him the help that he needed.
We quickly enrolled him in Early Intervention where he received Speech and Occupational therapy. When he turned 3 he transitioned into the special needs preschool in our district. There, he thrived. Eventually he just seemed to unlock. He started talking more and more and then not long after he turned 3 1/2, he started reading.
Today, Kameron is in the 1st grade. He is reading on a 7th grade level and comprehending on a 4th grade level. He loves to read, write, make up stories, and spell. He is excelling in every area academically. His meltdowns stopped once he was able to communicate, but he still gets upset easily and doesn't quite know how to control his anger. We have to remind him daily to make good choices. He doesn't have the common sense that other kids his age seem to have. He's not obsessed with the stacking cups or round things anymore, but he still doesn't like his space invaded, and he gives and receives hugs sparingly. His social skills are not quite up to par, but his friends view him as a leader and he's well liked at school. He's come a long, long way and he's working hard on overcoming his sensory issues.
I love to watch Kameron's mind work. I love to see the things he comes up with. He's so creative and does things so out of the norm. I think this is one of his best qualities and I can't wait to see what he does with his life. Whatever it is, it's going to be amazing!
So, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Kameron has agreed to do a Q&A session on this blog! For the next week you can leave a question for him in the comment section here. Anything you'd like to know about him! Next week I will ask him the questions on video and post it all for you to see! Don't miss this chance to get to know a really special kid!