Meet Milan B., 10
I like having autism and I would never change anything about myself. I would not be the person I am today if I did not have autism. I am very creative and smart because of this. However, autism is just a little part of me; it is not who I am."
When their son, Milan, was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at seven years of age, his parents felt a wide range of emotions. Years of uncertainty and concern suddenly collided with feelings of optimism and hope.
The family had increasingly noticed developmental differences between Milan and his twin sister, Livi. Why did Milan have sensitivity to loud noises and a heightened sense of smell? Why didn’t he like to be shown physical affection? Why was it so difficult for him to sit still for longer than a few minutes? And why didn’t Livi seem to be affected by any of these things?
With the official autism diagnosis, the family was ready to exhaust every resource to ensure their son would have everything he needed to live a happy, fulfilling life.
"My husband and I researched autism spectrum disorder and ADHD, and spoke to Milan’s therapist and developmental pediatrician to develop a plan to deal with his diagnosis as a family. We reached out to other parents and the school social worker as well. Of course, Autism Speaks and SEPTO (Special Education Parent Teacher Organization) were also very helpful," said Milan’s mom.
"We agreed that it would be best to share the diagnosis with Milan and his twin sister, who doesn’t have autism, to help them understand what the diagnosis meant. We read and discussed children's books with them on ASD and researched autism heroes. We also shared the diagnosis with our friends and family and explained Milan’s sensitivities and needs."
Today, with the help of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a dedicated team of teachers and paraprofessionals, and trusted medical professionals, Milan continues to make tremendous strides both socially and academically. In fact, he has come so far since his initial diagnosis that today, he’s the proud co-author and illustrator of a children’s book titled, "Autism & Me."
The paperback, co-authored by Milan’s former paraprofessional, tells the story of a fictional character, Mike, and creatively demonstrates how his mind works differently than those of most of his friends and family. Milan not only did all the illustrations in the book, but he provided valuable insight into his daily triumphs and struggles in hopes of providing a better understanding about what it means to be on the autism spectrum.
In the final page of the book, Milan proudly describes the positive outlook he has adopted about his autism since being diagnosed two years ago.
"When I think of autism I think of a big lightbulb on the top of my head. I do not want people to feel bad for me. I like having autism and I would never change anything about myself," he said through the voice of Mike. "I would not be the person I am today if I did not have autism. I am very creative and smart because of this. However, autism is just a little part of me; it is not who I am."