The Faces of Autism: Meet Berkley
Meet Berkley, an incredible 9 year old boy diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Berkley was one of the Faces from last year, you can read that HERE.
Berkley was diagnosed with Autism at 3 1/2 years old. Berkley was the first child for his mom and while she was a pediatric nurse at the time, she did not truly understand development and milestones. He had difficulty with baby food, being fed, holding a bottle, took all of the cans out of the pantry and lined them up across the house - the same with books, and toy cars. He spun items vs played with them, ect. He would sit and stare out at nothing but was also a sweet and loving baby. He was "easy" - he didn't cry out or coo much but started to hum as a toddler. He was not talking, displaying emotion, play activities, using utensils or potty training like other boys his age. At about 18 months they moved and attributed some of his regression to the move. He kept regressing with what little language he had and started having "shut down" episodes when situations were too much for him to handle. He was in an in home daycare at the time who complained about his failure to do as the other boys did. They turned to Right Track Screening and were quickly referred for a full evaluation with Early Intervention. Berkley started Early Intervention at 2 years old.
Berkley has an incredible spirit. He is eager to learn, has an amazing memory and attention for details. He can recall dates, times, and other numbers like no other. He has memorized all the birth and death dates and the dates of presidencies for all the Presidents. Berkley has great hand - eye coordination and is a super star baseball batter. He will be playing Bismarck Youth Baseball this year. Berkley has difficulties socially - Making acquaintances, greetings, and maintaining a conversation. He struggles with retelling information or answerings open ended questions. He has come so far with foods - trying new food items lately and working to prepare snack items and breakfast foods himself. He struggles with bathing and brushing his teeth - applying the correct amount of pressure and orientation. Thinking on his feet and following new or multi-step directions can still be difficult.
In the past year, Berkley has grown so much! Physically he is taller and looks so much more grown up. He has "true" friends who accept him for who he is and he is eager to play with them. He has made huge strides in dressing and other areas of self-care. He met many of his therapy and IEP goals and continues to be his Mom's helper! He has taken on many tasks around the house like feeding the dogs and helping take out the trash. He thrives on positive reinforcement!
About raising a child with Autism:
"My family is unique - in that we have two kiddos with Autism, both boys. Berkley is my oldest and our first diagnosed. Having a child with Autism, now, is my norm. It is hard to step back and realize all the things that have gone into making my children who they are today. Other families don't understand the rigid schedules, endless therapy appointments, reluctance to do new things and travel or go out as a family to new places, ect. My boys "shut down" vs "melt down" but they struggle all the same. It is so hard to know what your child needs when they have difficulty communicating their needs or expressing the emotions. A world that recognises differences and individuality is a world closer to being non-judgemental. We all have quirks and differences, needs, and wants - we are all unique."
His mom also added this:
"It truly does take a village to raise a child. It took many years of feeling alone and struggling to understand the system but one random day, along came my village and we have grown. I do not know what I would do without my dearest friends and their children. Blood does not always define family. If you are struggling with a diagnosis, needing a diagnosis, understanding the cumbersome system that you and your family have been thrust into - fight the urge to shy away, to feel like no one will understand - because we do and while each and everyone's experience is different there are many commonalities. Please reach out."
Berkley wants everyone to know "Autism makes me feel special. It is just how my brain is made."
If you suspect your child may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are great supports in the community. One of my favorites is BisMan Autism Families on Facebook, the people there can help guide you in the right direction, and throughout the process. They are an amazing village to join. If your child is under 3 year old, you can also contact Right Track for a free screening. Locally the numbers to reach them are (701) 328-8930; or toll free 1-800-755-8529. A screening or evaluation CANNOT hurt and it can either point you in the right direction to help your child, or ease your mind if they are on track.