April 16, 2023
by Joyce Grenis
One of our mothers, María, watched her son, Alejandro sitting on the floor, staring. His colorful toys all around him were untouched. He did not reach out to them or play with them. María and her husband, Pablo, told us that was a common scene, and that Alejandro did not engage with them either. No mamas or papas, no hugs, no smiles. As they looked around their community, they saw children about the same age as Alejandro, talking, laughing, and playing with their friends.
Their son was clearly different. As a baby he did not babble, to experiment with different sounds, on his way to talking. He did not smile, look up when he heard his name, or have eye contact with his parents or anyone else. It was a mystery for them, but they knew in their hearts that this mystery must have a name.
His parents knew they needed help, but didn't know where to look. A friend suggested that they visit Niños con Autismo de San Miguel de Allende, A.C. This non-profit is dedicated to identifying and providing individualized therapy to children with autism. Alejandro (names of all have been changed) is a good example of the types of behaviors a therapist might see in the Center. Often one of the first signs that parents see is the failure to talk, although they may have seen other signs, but just assumed that this was the way their child was. It is sad for parents to think that their child is not perfect and may not have an amazing future ahead of them.
In the United States and Canada, children are often diagnosed with autism when they are between 6 and 12 months. Autism is not a common diagnosis in Mexico and many health care and educational professionals are not aware of the signs or where to go for help if they suspect autism. One of the missions of Niños con Autism is to educate families and professionals about how to identify autism. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 400 children with autism live in the greater San Miguel area alone.
María and Pablo started on their journey by talking with the Center's Director about Alejandro specifically about his lack of speech. After listening to Alejandro's history, she suggested that Alejandro be evaluated. The first part of the evaluation included additional interviews with his mother and father to better understand what they were seeing. Shortly thereafter, they brought Alejandro into the Therapy Center for his evaluation which consisted of using various toys (clinically known as didactic materials, but better known to the children as toys) to understand his reactions, abilities to interact with the materials and the therapist, and to verbalize.
In the follow-up meeting, the Director told María y Pablo that Alejandro was definitely on the spectrum of autism. María and Pablo lit up. They finally had an answer to their mystery. They embraced the diagnosis because now Alejandro could start on a path. Based on the evaluations and interviews, Alejandro's therapist created a plan for him specifically. Every child with autism has different needs and requires a therapy plan specifically designed for them. Just as every child with autism is different, each therapy plan is different. Since each child progresses at a different rate, all therapy plans are reviewed monthly.
Alejandro attended his first therapy session with his mother. A parent is required to attend each therapy session to understand what their child is learning. The therapist works with the parent as well to continue therapies at home. After each session, the therapist and the parent review the therapy plan so that everyone is clear on next steps.
Alejandro began with speech therapy, learning the names of the toys he was playing with. The therapist would repeat the names and he would try to mimic the sounds. Using a mirror, the therapist was to show Alejandro what the words looked like as he formed them. During one session they worked on "Mama". Slowly Alejandro began to make the "M" sound, hesitant at first and then stronger. Both his therapist and mother had tears in their eyes as he shouted "Mama". Miracle #1. "Papa" was next. Putting his lips together, "Papa" was Miracle #2.
Alejandro now has a vocabulary of more than 100 words, all miracles! His mother and father have seen his vocabulary continue to grow, but they have also seen him change in other ways. With access to language, he can now interact, not only with his parents, but also with other family members and his friends. He has started to smile and make eye contact. Right now he is in school and his mother is helping him develop basic social skills such as "Hi" and "Bye". He is more comfortable around people, including children, that he does not know, but loud conversations, yelling, and shouting disrupt his world. This sensitivity to noise can be another symptom of autism.
Alejandro and his parents are definitely on the right path with the individualized help he receives at the Center of Niños con Autismo. Alejandro is lucky. He has parents who persisted and found a diagnosis and help. He did not get diagnosed until he was three, but that is far better than many children. His world has opened up to all the possibilities that life has to offer.
See More / Register
Autism is not an illness or a disease. There is no vaccine to prevent it nor pill to cure it, and despite a great deal of research, no one has found a cause. It is a neurological disorder that has been referred to as a "neurological storm" where the child or young adult has sensory overload and is unable to distinguish between the various sights, sounds, emotions, smells, etc. that may be present at one time. These children retreat into themselves. Autism is characterized by repetitive behavior, inability to communicate and interact socially. These are not the only signs of autism, but they are the most common.
Niños con Autismo wants to see children as young as we can. Recent patients have joined us as young as 18 months, which allows us to give them a head start in their therapy. The specific signs for autism in young children include:
· at six months, the child does not smile or make eye contact,
· at nine months, the child has no interaction with others, including family,
· at 12 months, the child does not babble, respond to his name, or interact through gestures,
· at 16 months, the child does not say a single word,
· at 24 months, his vocabulary is very limited.
If you know a child who is having these types of difficulties, please let us know. The sooner therapy is started, the more successful the therapy will be in helping the child lead a more normal life. Payment for treatment is based on the economic circumstances of the family. Many pay little or nothing.
Please join Alejandro and his parents and Niños con Autismo in the joy of hope and the happiness of change. Alejandro's parents now anticipate a better world for their son and, with your help, we anticipate a better world for all children with autism here in the San Miguel area.
We can be reached at email@example.com or 415-688-1755.
Please Like us on our Facebook page. We also receive many referrals through our Facebook page so your Liking our page is important:
If you can help, we are currently receiving donations from the community for support for our families who cannot afford their children's therapies. Our donations page is:
My Life in Bullet Points or Here's What Made Me, Me:
• from Iowa with three rowdy, accomplished younger siblings,
• attended university where one dormitory held my entire town,
• arrived in the big city (Chicago) aghast at the unlimited opportunities on all fronts,
• raised two amazingly creative, caring and intelligent daughters and have enjoyed the antics of two equally creative, caring and intelligent grandsons,
• loved my 40 years of helping business owners understand how employees and the law had changed (daunting task),
• earned two degrees somewhere along the way,
• bought a house in San Miguel in 2006 and retired here in 2015,
and last, but not least,
• enjoy life with a wonderful partner, exceptional travel buddy, and unstinting supporter. Thank you, Michael.
These bullets created the me that people see today, dedicated to giving back.
Please contribute to Lokkal,
SMA's online collective:
Watch the two-minute video below.
Then, just below that, scroll down SMA's Community Wall.
Visit SMA's Social Network