The saying “to know him is to love him” was created for my son. I mean, obviously, I know that saying has been around for a lot longer than two years lol but when I think of my son, I think of that saying. Everyone who has the opportunity to interact with him immediately falls in love with him. He’s hilarious, even though he’s nonverbal. He’s loving and affectionate yet wild and rambunctious. He will make you smile and laugh even on your worst day. He is a bright light in this crazy world that we live in today. On August 25, 2021 my life changed forever. Gary the 5th aka Cinco was born. I had no idea how much I would love being a mother. He brightened every single day of my life and still does. I cannot put into words the amount of love that I have for my babies. There are no earthly words that can possibly explain it. When Cinco was about nine months old, I first started having concerns of autism. I know some of you might be thinking that is too young to tell but it wasn’t. If he would’ve been my second child, then I probably would’ve seen signs even younger than that, but I didn’t know much about babies back then. By the time he was about 13 or 14 months my concerns deepened, and I was scared and worried. I spoke with two different pediatricians. I spoke with his primary pediatrician (at that time) and another pediatrician in the same office. They both downplayed my concerns and told me that he was too young for me to be worried about it. The first pediatrician told me that most autistic children don’t even have a lot of signs, they just have weird things like “ewww my food is touching my other food.” - yes, I’m serious. That really happened. The second pediatrician told me that lots of children outgrow their ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnosis as they grow older. What?!? Needless to say, we switched pediatricians, and found an office that is very well educated on autism. Around the time, my son was 15 months, there was basically no doubt in my mind that he was autistic. I had done so much research. I watched videos, read books, googled, googled, googled, and I was pretty positive that my baby was on the spectrum. I went through a couple of weeks of nonstop worry. I was praying all the time for God to “please don’t let my baby be autistic.” I look back on that and laugh now, because God knew exactly what he was doing, and he gave me the most perfect baby boy that I could ever dream of. I cannot picture him any other way, and would not change him for the world. I saw a quote recently that said, “I wouldn’t change my child for the world but I would change the world for my child” and that is how I feel. I want to make a difference. I want to create more awareness around autism because I had no idea what it really was before I started researching it. Some of the people very close to Cinco thought that I was completely overreacting. They had this old school thinking about what autism is. They were thinking that autistic children don’t smile, they’re not affectionate, they don’t laugh, and Cinco was and still is the opposite of all those things. After I stopped worrying and started trusting in God, I also started taking action. They don’t test for autism until 18 months, but I went ahead and started reaching out to places that did testing and assessments and found a place and got scheduled to start meeting with them after he turned 18 months (he was only 15 months at the time). A lot of places have very long waitlists, and I did not want to wait around because I learned from all of my studying how key early intervention is. I also started looking into ABA therapy and I found the best company in the DFW area. I called them and started communicating with them three months before he was ever old enough to even be tested. They were an absolute godsend. After he turned 18 months, we got the official diagnosis. He was diagnosed with ASD level two. We were able to get him started an ABA therapy at an amazing ABA Center 10 minutes away from our home. It’s basically like a little school for autistic children, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much Cinco loves it. He grabs his little backpack and heads toward the door every morning, ready to go to “school.” He also does speech therapy and occupational therapy on site at the ABA center. There are so many people there that genuinely love my son and it is very evident. He has grown and developed in ways I couldn’t even imagine. He has made so much progress over the last six months and he is becoming so independent. He loves playing with the other children and is constantly learning new things. He is so smart and thinks outside the box when it comes to getting things done. He turned 2 at the end of June and is still basically nonverbal. He says little words/sounds here and there, including mom, mama, baby (beh beh) and bye. And just for the record, he loves his dad just as much as he loves his mama. He just hasn’t learned the “da” sound yet . Anyway, I have decided to share my story because Cinco is my “why.” He is why I will be walking in my first Autism Speaks Walk and creating awareness around autism is my new passion. Thank you so much to each one of you that took the time to read this very very very long message. If you can afford to donate, please do so. It doesn’t matter how small the amount, because everything helps. If you can’t afford to donate then, feel free to share my post or send prayers and love our way.
In addition to coming together in person to help create a world where all people with autism can reach their full potential, each Walk will retain the fun, remote-participation options introduced last year. Your safety is our priority — and no matter how you choose to participate, your support will be recognized and celebrated. Our community is stronger together, and we can't wait to celebrate one another and the amazing impact we are making together for people with autism and their families. Whether near or far, let's rally together on Walk day!
The Stage at Grandscape
Maria Krystofik, Area Executive Director