"I guess it began like most of these journeys--where 'once upon a time' is replaced with 'I had a gut feeling something was not right...' Mother's intuition," wrote Patricia Trautwein, as she shared her son's story with me.
Patricia is the mom of Franklin, the little boy in the picture with those big, chocolate-brown eyes. Patricia had an inkling that something was not right--around his first birthday, she noticed that he had stopped babbling and that his eye contact was fading. Franklin developed a few "quirks," wanting to have things a certain way.
"At 15 months, I mentioned it to the pediatrician and was told to be patient," said Patricia. "By 18 months, I started expressing concern to friends and family--who, out of love, reassured me, 'he is fine.'"
Patricia's "defining moment" came when she went to pick up Franklin at a children's program after church. When she arrived, she noticed that all of the children had smiling faces and were running to the gate to greet their parents. All of them, except Frankie. He was sitting in a corner holding his blanket and rocking back and forth.
He's been like that the whole time, the caregivers said.
"I had to get down and put my face right to him," said Patricia. "He looked through me, and then just like that, he raised his arms for me to take him home. No words. I cried the whole way home, telling him and myself that it would be okay."
After sharing her concerns with her extended family, she was again reassured by the responses she received: Einstein did not talk until he was three--Uncle Robert did not talk until he was four... It was easy to slip back into denial.
But Patricia placed a call to Early Intervention Services and set up an evaluation. "I knew what was coming, yet, when they said autism, I was not prepared still," Patricia recalled.
A few days later, reality hit her. In the middle of the night, Patricia typed "Autism" in a web browser--the description was Franklin.
"Franklin is making steady progress," Patricia shared. "He has good days and bad days and will have times of great gains, then a plateau, then another gain. I have to try hard to stay positive during the plateaus."
Franklin's days are filled with speech, OT and behavioral therapy. Coupled with a Gluten Free Casein Free diet and different behavioral approaches, Franklin has made progress. "The diet made a huge difference for Franklin. Within three days, we saw a difference in eye contact. Within three weeks, we got our first word--open."
Patricia was surprised that none of the therapists nor physicians suggested diet changes--she discovered it online from another parent. Franklin is now using about 30 words and enjoys reciting entire videos from memory.
"We also plan to keep the private therapist," said Patricia. "While this is a huge financial drain on us, we are fortunate to be able to accommodate. So many families rely on the services of the public education system. The system is strapped and cannot provide what the research is showing as most effective. Health insurance does not cover any services for the most part either. I hope with awareness and data, that this will change."
Franklin is now a big brother and will soon begin attending a pre-kindergarten program at his local public school.
"Over the past 10 months, we have learned a great deal," said Patricia. "We tried many approaches and continue to advocate for our son and other children with Autism. I want to help others if I possibly can... this road is too hard to take alone."