Living With Autism

Imagine getting the news that your son or daughter has been diagnosed with a condition where there is no known cause or cure? That is the reality for parents everyday who find out their child has autism, launching an exhaustive and frustrating search for answers, while at the same time, seeking help and treatment.

Ten-year-old Isaac Soderstrom of Greenville has an amazing memory. His mother Amy says he can recite an entire movie after watching it only a couple of times. Isaac's incredible ability, known as echolalia, is actually a coping mechanism of his...a discovery his parents made after he and his twin brother Samuel were diagnosed with autism. Amy says, "We had gone into a regular pediatricians visit for an ear infection and the p.a. we saw that day noticed they weren't speaking much and they were two years old. So she referred us to a speech therapist and I thought a whole twin speak thing was going on. The autism thing really floored us. We weren't expecting it."

While the news came as a surprise for Amy and her husband Ken, It's something more and more parents are hearing. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability, a diagnosis made in one out of every 110 kids, leaving most parents asking the same question as the Soderstrom's: "What happened to make autism happen to us."

Dr.Susan Foreman, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Eastern Psychiatric in Greenville specializes in treating kids with autism. She says that quest for answers can be a frustrating one filled with false hope. Recently, a 13-year-old study linking a childhood vaccine to autism was determined to be a fraud. Dr. Foreman says, "Frankly, very few people were surprised when the article was refuted."

But for parents looking for answers, it was yet one more theory thrown out the window. That's why Dr. Foreman tries to get parents to focus on treatment, not cause. "Because with autism it's crucial we have early intense treatment and if you spend too much time asking why then you're not going to be spending the energy you need saying O.K. now let's do something about it."

And taking action is exactly what the Soderstrom's are focused on. Not only do they concentrate on reading, letters and numbers, they converted their basement into an occupational therapy room. Amy says, "What's important is the two kids who live with me and that they're happy and developing. I'd much rather at this point focus my energy on what I can do for them versus why it all happened."

Amy says she has seen some progress in both of her boys. Dr. Foreman says that is ultimately the goal, to continue to see improvement. She says she has had some patients who have made such strides with years of treatment that they would no longer meet the criteria for autism.

To learn more about the symptoms and treatments of autism just click on link below to the Autism Society of North Carolina.

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