Wearing headphones that dwarf his small ears, Jackson sat transfixed on the Disney cartoon playing on his iPad while his parents talked about his attraction to electronics and his tendency to watch air conditioners, fans, washing machines — anything that moves.
Maybe little boys are just quirky, thought Jackson’s mom, Christine. But when Jackson, stayed in the habit of responding to questions by repeating the questions instead of answering them, and he tended to not play with any peers at preschool, she began Googling to see if there might be a problem.
Up came the word autism.
Could he be autistic, she wondered. Even if Jackson did seem to be drawn more to adults than children, that could have been because he was an only child in a household with two adults, Christine thought. Even a pediatrician ruled autism out, saying Jackson had made eye contact with her and seemed friendly.
But after his preschool teachers mentioned he might be behind in his speech, Jackson started with weekly speech therapy. He was tested further and found to have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“You get that diagnosis and think: what do I do? Where do I go?”
Chris, Jackson’s father, hoped his son might just need some extra help in school.
As overwhelming as the diagnosis was, Jackson’s improvement after just a handful of months encourages his parents’ hopes for him. He’s taking weekly speech and occupational therapy and a class for autistic children. Jackson plays with toys now — he used to ignore all of them. When people ask him his name, he says his name, instead of just repeating: “What is your name?” He’s now able to walk into a crowd of children and stand there, next to them, sometimes even play tag.
Jackson still has a liking for air conditioners. Anything that spins fascinates him. But now when he tells his parents he wants to ride bikes just to go see people’s outside air conditioners, they’ll stop at one and then tell him it’s time to get back on their bikes and keep going. And he does.