By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Hudson – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about 1 in 88 children is currently identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This number, according to the Autism Speaks, a leading research and advocacy organization, is growing. It is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
Derek and Kristen Munyon of Hudson began their journey with autism July 11, 2012, when their daughter, Kayleigh, was diagnosed with ASD.
At eight months of age, Kayleigh was struggling to crawl, would not eat solids, and was having severe sleeping issues. By the time she was a year old, she had begun crawling, but could not say even simple words. Soon afterwards, she began experiencing screaming spells. Kayleigh did not respond to her name and was completely withdrawn from other children. These symptoms caused concern for her parents as well as her pediatrician. When Kayleigh was 16 months old, testing confirmed an ASD diagnosis.
“Although I suspected it for quite a few months, the diagnosis was very upsetting,” said Kristen. “Being a parent with a child on the spectrum isn's always easy, but Kayleigh brings a tremendous amount of joy and laughter to our lives. And, although Kayleigh struggles with many different sensory issues, it does not stop her from being a happy, outgoing child.”
Over the past eight months Kayleigh has received Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, a mixture of psychological and educational techniques, as well as early intervention services. According to her mother, she has made tremendous strides with her development – now speaking in limited sentences and expressing some of her feelings. She is running and jumping, learning her colors and numbers, and singing her ABC's at her limited pace.
For Derek and Kristen, life with autism has been a lesson in patience and endurance. It is also a juggling act. Kristen is currently working toward a degree in computer engineering, taking evening and online classes at Quinsigamond Community College. She spends her days transporting Kayleigh to and from therapy and caring for both Kayleigh and her four-year-old son, Robert. She also works a part-time job at night. Derek works during the day and takes care of the children at night.
In their journey with autism, the Munyons have turned to Autism Speaks for support, resources and answers. On October 6, they will be participating in Walk Now for Autism Speaks – a grassroots effort to raise awareness and research funding – which will take place at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. Both Derek and Kristen, as well as a handful of family and friends, will be walking for their team, Kayleigh's Journey. They welcome anyone who would like to join them.
Anyone who would like to donate to Kayleigh's Journey can do so by visiting http://walknowforautismspeaks.org/greaterboston/kayleighsjourney. For more information on Walk Now for Autism Speaks go to www.walknowforautismspeaks.org.
Anyone interested in donating to the Autism Speaks Walk can do so by mailing a check to: Autism Speaks Boston, Walk Donations Department, 1060 State Road, 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ, 08540. All donations are tax deductible. To learn more about Autism Speaks, visit www.autismspeaks.org.?