The Unseen Side of Autism

By CBS News

Published 05/01 2014 05:02PM

Updated 05/01 2014 05:37PM

CBSNews -- One in 68; that’s the number of children nationally diagnosed with autism. Doctors have noted the number of families with autistic children is growing. Among them is the Day family.

Aimee Day and her husband Chris have two energetic and curious boys: eight-year-old Ty and nine-year-old John. While each of her boys has their own personality and pace for developmental milestones, when he was two, Aimee noticed something different about Ty.

"He didn't really speak,” she says. “He spoke maybe one or two words. He never responded to his name. He wouldn't really look at me."

Aimee says she never considered autism at the time. She says she didn’t even know what it was.

"By the grace of God I was at the computer one day,” she recounts. “Yahoo News popped up and it was an article about if your child is not doing certain things by the age of two, the pediatrician should check for signs of autism. And I had no idea what autism was."

Autism affects how the brain processes information. The disorder can impact the way a person communicates, relates to others and that creates challenges for families. Trips to the park weren't always possible because of a fear Ty would wander off alone. And movie night could end with one son feeling neglected.

"Five minutes in to the movie I'd have to go to the hallway with his brother so that he could walk up and down the theater,” Aimee says. “So my older son would be watching the movie all alone. And it broke my heart"

"It happens all the time,” says Autism Clinic Director at Brazos Valley Rehab Center, Dr. Amy Heath. “And that's one of the concerns that our families have. Sometimes our families feel very isolated."

Several years ago, just a handful of pre-schoolers were receiving treatment. Now nearly 40 children and young adults are learning strategies to help them cope with the differences that impact their lives.

"I think that's the balance that we play,” says Heath. “Is helping them learn how to cope with the differences and the struggles that they're having, but teaching them that you are a wonderful person."

Aimee says balance is also key. Her goal with the years of therapy Ty's received is to help him, not to change him.

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