Charlie's World

A family battles autism

A year ago, at the age of two, our son Charlie was diagnosed with autism. The past year has taken my wife Kristina and me on a journey from deep sadness to rising hope and joy as Charlie has made heartening progress in his struggle to communicate with us and others. We know that he, and we, are still near the beginning of a very long road to help him learn and grow through constant work, faith, and love. One by one we teach Charlie the names of things-"cup," "shoe," "lamp"-and syllable by syllable we shape his sounds-"kk-er," "mm-ssih"-into words-"cracker," "music." With each sound, with each word learned, Charlie takes one more step into the world.

Autism is a neurobiological disorder marked by severe delays in speech, repetitive or ritualized behaviors, and especially by profound impairments in social interaction. Charlie was late to roll over, sit by himself, walk (he did not crawl but scooted around in a sitting position, propelled by his hands). From the time he was ten months old, he "read" all the books Kristina had set up as his "library." My mother was the first to raise concerns at how long Charlie would sit-forty-five minutes and more-absorbed in the colorful stiff pages of his board books or looking quietly out the window. Nevertheless, he always knew where our car was parked, even in the megasized lots of the Midwest, and one hot summer day, when he was still some weeks shy of his second birthday...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.