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College is a dream many have, but some feel it may be out of reach because of a variety of disadvantages.

This is the story of Oscar Diaz and his pursuit of his college dreams:

Study book with glasses

​Oscar diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 4. He started elementary school in a normal kindergarten class but soon was relocated to a class that could “fit his needs.” Several of his family members thought this was a tragedy because it wouldn’t entitle Oscar to much, but it was the beginning of Oscar’s path to success.

 

Getting switched into the a different class opened Oscar up to ABA therapy and sooner than later things started looking up. It took Oscar six years to graduate elementary school, but it was worth it. No one, not even Oscar, thought elementary school graduation was possible, nor did anyone believe Oscar would be able to go to middle school without any ABA services. However, Oscar completed both middle school and high school without any service dependency.

Stack of books

Once his necessary education was complete, Oscar wanted more. He always dreamed of going to college but never thought it was possible because of his family’s economic status. So he took a year off after high school to devote all of his time studying for the ACT and SAT. After receiving an exemplary score, he applied to five universities in Florida and received a full merit scholarship to Florida State University. Oscar is now 24 years old and just graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree.  

This is only one of the many success stories that began with the believed constraint of Autism. But Oscar did not let the stigma hold him back, and hopefully neither will other children like him.

Signs That Your Child Might Have Autism

1 out of every 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the US.

How do you know if you should seek out a diagnosis or additional help?

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) “is a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences” (Autism Speaks, 2017)

This broad range of challenges is indicative of why the diagnosis is on a spectrum. Every child experiences the world around them differently. With every child being unique, how do I know if my child is showing early signs?

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) typically demonstrate some important indicators around 18 months to three years of age. Here are signs to look for:

  • Your child is not reaching the typical developmental milestones such as no babbling by 1 year of age or not saying any words by 16 months of age. For a reference sheet of developmental milestones, read more here.
  • A lack of engagement in social interaction, whether it be between mom and baby or peers at the park. Your children should be able to enjoy a fun game of peek-a-boo by the end of year one and smile at mom or dad when they are present. In addition, by the age of two, children show interest in peers and want to play together, or alongside in the same game, instead of alone.

Low engagement in social interaction

  • Engaging in “odd’ repetitive play behaviors. These behaviors are referred to as stimming and can include waving items in front of the face, lining up toys which are not intended to be played with in that manner, or hand flapping.
  • Your child seems to be developing at the typical rate, but then regresses. For example, the child engages in clapping at least 3 times a day, but now the child won’t clap, even if asked or told to do so. This regression could also include language. For example, the child was engaging in approximations for words like “mamama” for mom or “ball” when seeing a ball, but now the language has not been observed nor have new words been created by the child.

Recognizing these signs of ASD is the first step to seeking help!

Although some children experience several of the delays, some only demonstrate one. If any of the above behaviors are observed by your child,  professionals recommend seeking out a diagnosis by your Pediatrician, Neurologist, or Psychologist in order for your child to receive the additional care and attention needed for them to have the most successful, independent, and happiest life possible.