Autism: Different, Not Less


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Cheryl Drake of Greensboro remembers her son Bobby, now age 3, as a smiling, giggling, happy baby. He walked at 10 months old and rarely cried. As he got older, the only noticeable delay was a speech delay, which Drake was not terribly concerned about because she knew boys typically developed slower than girls. It was not until he was in preschool that a teacher noticed that he would not respond to his name and had a tendency to line up toy trains — classic red flags for autism.

Bobby was diagnosed with autism at age 2 and began speech and rehabilitative therapies immediately through the CDSA. "When he was first diagnosed it was devastating for me. I could not believe somebody just told me my perfect and beautiful baby boy was less than perfect, that he was 'in his own world,' " Drake said. "But after many sleepless nights and tears, I have come to be OK with the diagnosis. I know [that] just because he has autism, it does not make him less than perfect. My husband always knew this. It just took me a little longer to come to terms with it."

With intensive therapy, Bobby has gone from a child that could not communicate his wants and needs to a child that can express himself. Drake says he still has a way to go, but each day he grows and progresses a little more. Bobby is currently in a special class for children with autism at Lindley Park Elementary in Greensboro and is doing very well.

"We get so excited to hear Bobby had a great day at school and asked for something or played with another child, since one of the characteristics of autism is not doing this," Drake said. "We embrace and celebrate every little milestone because it really is huge in the big picture."

Drake had the opportunity to attend a conference on autism where Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science, professor at Colorado State University and bestselling author, who also has who has autism, was a speaker. She told the audience that just because somebody has autism "they are different not less."

"That will stick with me for the rest of my life," Drake said.

"Bobby is a precious gift. If I was given a magic dust or told I could erase his autism I would not. I'm afraid he would not be Bobby — my beautiful boy."

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