Autism: the missing piece of the puzzle

This is my story.  The journey I was given with no map or handbook.

My son was the typical infant – always happy and babbling, and pretty much ate everything. He was watched, along with my niece who was three weeks older, by my dad and stepmother while my husband and I worked. At about 18 months, Jason seemed to be behind in walking and talking. I played it off and kept saying, ” Oh, he’s a boy. Girls just mature faster”. As time went on, my dad suggested that maybe Jason was deaf, as he did not respond to his name when he was spoken to. Again, I dismissed that as being a typical boy. Jason did not speak if he wanted something; he would point to it or make a grunting sound or take me to it. That is when my stepmother handed me information on autism. I totally ignored that at first. I stated, ” My son doesn’t have autism. I don’t even know what that is.”  Due to the constant questioning and perseverance from my family, I had Jason’s hearing tested, which came back normal. Then I really started to wonder. I looked at the papers about autism I was given, and when I read it, my heart sank. I thought; Jason does that. It all started to make sense…. the spinning, the hand flapping, the non verbal gestures, the delayed development.

Jason playing mini golf

I contacted Geauga County Help Me Grow, and Rochelle Payne came to the house and did an evaluation. She said children with autism need early intervention, which meant Jason would need to attend school to receive proper speech, physical, and occupational therapy. After the evaluation, he was assigned to a wonderful teacher named Miss Sally. She accompanied Jason to his initial appointment with the pediatric neurologist. The doctor said Jason did show all the signs of autism as he did not respond to his name and had no immediate eye contact. We scheduled another appointment in six months. The initial news was like being kicked in the stomach. ” How can this be?” ” What causes autism?” I had a very healthy pregnancy, yet Jason was born a month premature. Was this a cause? All kinds of questions go through your mind. ” What did I do wrong?” “Why me?”

Six months later, at his follow up appointment, it was confirmed; My son had AUTISM……No known cure. No one knows what causes autism! Why is it so prevalent in boys? One in every 70 boys is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Today, Jason is a thriving 8 year old boy who loves life. He has been attending school since he was 2 years old. Happy and always smiling, he loves to hug and give kisses. He is great at drawing and art work. He loves his movie collection of about 300 Disney, Pixar, etc. Jason can tell you who screen writes every single movie he has and numerous other details about the credits. My beautiful son is my pride and joy and I love him just the way he is and could not have asked for anything more. I am extremely proud of the boy he is and excited to see the man he will become. Anything is possible with early diagnosis and intervention.

Jason and his dad

My journey will continue, because I now have a map….

My desire is to bring autism awareness to this community to help others and to guide them in the right direction. Autism is becoming very prevalent, and I want to help others recognize the early signs of autism as it does have a wide range of disabilities.

Rachel Dannemiller
Author: Rachel Dannemiller

Rachel is a lifelong resident of Geauga County. She is married to Tom and has a son Jason, and a dog named Harley. Rachel and her family are devoted to bringing autism awareness to the community and they are organizing the local Autism Speaks event in Burton this year.