Symptoms of autism include delayed or lack of speech, repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms, little or no eye contact, lack of interest in peer relationships, lack of spontaneous or make-believe play and persistent fixation on parts of objects.
Jennifer had noticed that Kyle seemed behind developmentally. He didn’t sit up on his own until he was 9 months old, but doctors at home had assured Jennifer that Kyle would eventually reach these milestones at his own pace. Being 21 years old with no prior experience with children, Jennifer felt no cause for alarm.
“Kyle’s diaper was the first diaper I had ever changed. Kyle was the first baby I had ever fed. So I wasn’t at all very familiar with babies,” Jennifer said. “I thought maybe he was just a little bit slow and would come to it on his own.”
He’s never spoken and never will, doctors have told Jennifer and her husband, Dennis. Kyle also doesn’t use sign language, but that doesn’t mean he and his family don’t communicate. During one-on-one time, Kyle strokes Jennifer’s face and smiles.
“Those who know him — we— know what he wants,” Jennifer said, motioning to her family, including her other son Kaedyn, 5, and her mother Mary Wiest.
More and more American families are getting acclimated to the disorder. Autism has become more prevalent in the United States than ever before. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that autism is present in 1 out of every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in every 54 boys.
Even with the growing numbers, Jennifer said people still struggle to understand her son. She’s been told at various times that he should be put in an institution and she’s also been asked why she brings her son in public.