The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

April 8, 2013

Living with autism

CLINTON — The moment Jennifer Medinger was turned away from helping her 4-year-old son Kyle during an Easter egg hunt was one of the hardest she faced as a mother.

“He can pick up an egg. If you guide him to it, he will pick it up. I knew it was something he would have liked to do,” Jennifer, of Clinton, said. “I took him there and I see all these other little kids running around picking up eggs. The people at the gate wouldn’t let me in to help Kyle.”

Kyle, who’s now 9, is autistic. Mentally, he’s on the same level as a 10 to 12 month old. When something like a light or noise upsets him, he may hit or pinch himself. He makes loud noises and is always moving some part of his body.

But on the outside, Kyle looks like a typical boy his age.

“A lot of people don’t understand. They stare. If you glance at him, he looks fine. You just might think I’m a bad mom that doesn’t discipline him,” Jennifer said.

More than 1 million Americans have autism, a complex developmental disability that typically appears in the first three years of life and affects a persons ability to interact and communicate with others. In order to increase awareness and educate the public, individuals and organizations across the county celebrate April as National Autism Awareness Month.

According to Autismspeaks.org, autism is a “spectrum disorder,” meaning it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. While no known causes of autism have been identified, it is generally believed that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function.

When he was 18 months old, Jennifer took Kyle to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he was in the hospital for a week because of a seizure disorder he has. During this visit, Jennifer was informed that Kyle had autism.

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