The Faces of Autism: Meet Preston

Meet Preston, a loving 4 year old boy that was diagnosed with autism at 20 months.  Preston is another child that participated last year (HERE), and I am so happy to see how far he has come since then! It is sometimes hard to see when you are in it every day, or even to many outsiders who might just look at what a child isn't doing.  But to another parent who "gets it", we see the progress, and it is amazing.

dear me photography bismarck photographer boy in room with blue tunnel behind him

When Preston was about 17 months old his parents noticed that he wasn't responding to his name.  Preston still had no words and couldn't follow any directions.

Preston is a stubborn boy. He uses some sign language and picture communication. He will bring items to you he wants or take you to items. His mom thinks of his strong will and stubbornness as huge strengths for him. Preston is also a loving boy, hee likes to cuddle once in awhile and give kisses and hugs. He wants to smell and kiss everyone’s head. Preston is very active and loves being outside. He loves wagon rides, the parks, and eating snow. Preston likes watching movies, some of his favorites are Open Season 2, Over the Hedge, Despicable Me 2, and Ice Age. Sky zone trampoline park is a favorite in the winter months. Running, jumping, and twirling keep him happy. He enjoys his iPad in the evenings before bed.

Preston has no concept of fear or danger. His parents are constantly wondering if this will be the year of broken bones.  His parents also have to lock Preston out of some rooms in the house as well as the fridge to prevent him from doing things like playing in toilet water or crushing eggs on the floor.

dear me photography bismarck nd boy standing on toy horse with his arm extended

This past year has been challenging for Preston and his family. They added a second child to their family and that’s been a learning curve for Preston. He does well with his little brother, but does not appreciate having to wait for something if Mom or Dad are busy with the baby. His eye contact and simple command following has improved. When asked to take his shoes off or unzip his coat, he will do so. There are also a few other commands he seems to be understanding well. Preston has also started with a PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) book. He is doing very well with it, using the “I want” picture along with his item of choice. When he doesn’t want to use it anymore he finds the “I want” and the “All done”, puts them on the sentence strip and points “I want all done.”

From Preston's parents about raising a child with autism:
"It’s really hard. Some days are awful, but there are good days too. There are rarely huge gains, but even the smallest gains feel amazing. Having a child that is non-verbal is an adventure. We play “guess what I want” on a daily basis and I’ve become very good at it. It’s easy to fall back and wonder why my child? Why me? Why do things have to be so hard? Why can’t he just say Mom? When those thoughts flood my mind I stop and say, “because he needed you.” I was chosen to be this little boys Mom for some reason and will forever be grateful. He can light up a room with his smile. He can also make your ears ring with his happy screams."

dear me photography bismarck photographer boy kneeling on indoor small trampoline

"I wouldn’t wish the hard days of an autism parent on anyone. The autism journey has made us have to change our lives and the way we planned on living with children. We are unable to do many things we used to do or wanted to do once we had kids. The unconditional love, though, has been worth it. Preston shows love through actions, not words. He gives the best hugs. Just recently, he came home from school and grandpa was visiting. Grandpa was holding his baby brother so he went over and kissed grandpas knee to show he missed and loved him. He’s a very sweet boy. He’s taught me patience. He’s taught me to not judge other moms, as I do not know what journey they are on. He’s also taught me to not care when people are staring at him or whispering when he’s stimming. They have no idea what joy they are missing out on."