Coping with Autism

     William Cerda appeared to be developing at a normal rate during his early years. “He was starting to speak…and even used to eat meat,” said William’s mother, Angela Cerda. “About 3 months after his 18-month shot it all stopped.” Since then it is as if his learning process has reversed. He can no longer verbalize words or hold a pen, and refuses to eat food items that are not french fries or plain cheese pizza.
     As difficult as single parenting is, imagine how complicated life can get when one of your children cannot verbally communicate with you. For Angela Cerda, every day is a struggle and new learning experience for both her and her 7-year-old autistic son. “It’s been a challenge trying to communicate with an autistic child, having to learn about autism and how to deal with it,” said Cerda.
     Autism is a complex brain disorder that alters brain development. According to, this disorder is “…characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.” The disorder is common and affects every 1 in 88 children in the U.S. Primarily dominate in males, the disorder is diagnosed in only 1 out of 252 girls, while the diagnosis for boys is estimated at 1 in every 53.
      During a routine check-up with William’s doctor, Cerda was informed that her son seemed ‘distanced’. “At first she told me and I didn’t want to believe it,” said Cerda. A Chicago Public School evaluation was performed shortly afterward noting that there were multiple things William could not do for a boy his age, such as talking and the task of being potty trained. She received a referral to place William in Portage Park Elementary, a school with a program that focuses on children with social and brain disorders.
     Since he cannot verbally communicate, all of William’s learning is done hand-over-hand. This is a process where the teacher has to instruct him by placing their hands over his. The goal is that by doing this repetitively he will learn the action of doing it alone.
     William is a straight ‘A’ student on the honor roll and was named most improved student in his class. “Believe it or not, he loves [school],” said Cera. “They communicate through pictures since he doesn’t talk. They say he does well, and he seems to enjoy it and want to go.” They teach him the same subjects as they would any other student, but conform their teaching style to his learning needs.
As challenging as it may be to raise a child with autism, Cerda would not change her son for the world. “Doctors have told me to put him on gluten free diets, to try hypnosis or shock therapy,” said Cerda. “There have been offers to put him on trial medication through Illinois Masonic Hospital, and I didn’t want to do any of that. I just want to go with the flow and see what happens.”
     Cerda is unable to work because there are very few people who are capable of watching a child with William’s needs. She admits that life would be different if her son was not autistic but said, “The other kids accept him and understand that he’s different.” Having a child with autism is “… a lot of work and can cause [parents] a lot of stress, but don’t give up on them. They need us,” said Cerda.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on salazarblogs and commented:
    Life is a wonderful but challenging!

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