Autism SeriesFree Access

Parents bring awareness

The bond between a loving parent and their child is like no other.

When a mother or father senses that their child may need special help to meet their needs, they often do all they can to advocate on their behalf.

Such is the case with several local parents and grandparents, who wanted to share their loved one’s stories and experiences with autism. The first part of the series will feature autistic children Johnny Rodriguez and Joshua Juarez.

According to Autism Speaks, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

Samantha Mayhall is a proud autism mom who wouldn’t change it for the world. Her son, 3-year-old Johnny Rodriguez doesn’t go to school, but next year he will attend pre-k at Pleasanton Primary School.

“Every autism journey is different, no two stories, experiences or even children are the same, and personally to me that is what makes our journey so unique,” said Mayhall.

She wants people to understand that her child is much more than a diagnosis. Autism doesn’t define who he is.

“I pray for acceptance and understanding of others, for other people to have an open mind when you are encountering a child with autism. That before you judge, or blame the parents or even judge the child– simply take a moment to offer support,” Mayhall said.

She reminds us that so often we observe something in a public setting and think we know the full story behind it, when we do not.

“That child you see screaming on the floor at the supermarket, may have seen, heard, or even smelled something new and all that child is doing is responding in the way the condition dictates. Autism is just a word, one word trying to describe millions of stories, millions of moments, and millions of people. This journey of ours is hard. It’s difficult, but it’s amazing and rewarding,” Mayhall shared.

Cassie Juarez is another local mom of an autistic boy.

“My son Joshua Juarez is almost 7-years-old and he is on the spectrum. He was diagnosed with autism level 2 at the age of 3. We always knew Josh was special in his own way since he was born. It takes a really strong and patient person to understand and raise someone so special like him!” Juarez said.

She said she does not know how she could ever thank all of Joshua’s therapists who have helped him so much since age 1. Like many of the other parents in this series, Cassie is especially thankful to the staff at Pleasanton ISD.

“I could never forget the wonderful, awesome special education teachers and aides at Pleasanton Primary School he has been with for three years. A lot of days it is a struggle, but we make it through! I wouldn’t change Josh for anything and love him just the way he is!” said Cassie.

She believes it is a very good idea to get the community involved and spread awareness about autism. Cassie knows that sometimes people don’t know or understand autism, but said it does hurt when people just stare at you in the store say if your chid is having a meltdown. “Not a tantrum, but a meltdown! I hope all the parents that do have children with autism in our community will be able to shed some light on this subject,” Cassie said. Read more from local families on autism in next week’s Pleasanton Express.

Possible signs of autism in babies and toddlers:

•By 6 months, no social smiles or other warm, joyful expressions directed at people •By 6 months, limited or no eye contact •By 9 months, no sharing of vocal sounds, smiles or other nonverbal communication •By 12 months, no babbling •By 12 months, no use of gestures to communicate (e.g. pointing, reaching, waving etc.) •By 12 months, no response to name when called •By 16 months, no words •By 24 months, no meaningful, two-word phrases •Any loss of any previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills

Possible signs of autism at any age:

•Avoids eye contact and prefers to be alone •Struggles with understanding other people’s feelings •Remains nonverbal or has delayed language development •Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia) •Gets upset by minor changes in routine or surroundings •Has highly restricted interests •Performs repetitive behaviors such as flapping, rocking or spinning •Has unusual and often intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors


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