We met Dylan and his family a year ago when he became "Pinpals" with Bryce at the bowling alley. I remember being greeted with a big, engaging smile as he asked me "What's your name?" - And he has always greeted me by name since that day. ☺ He stole a piece of my heart the first day we met and continues take more pieces every time we get together. He exudes purity and joy in a way that shines brightly - qualities that make this world a better place!
Dylan's mom, Kristine, has become a very dear friend of mine. She has shined a light of acceptance, happiness, and optimism on this Autism journey that has encouraged me in ways that I cannot express this past year. I am now walking along many of the footprints that she has already traveled. She understands the patience and understanding needed when your son wants to open and close every door repeatedly. Over and over again. She reminds me that seasons come and go with Autism. Some behaviors return, while others leave forever. And she's right ... A year ago, Dylan wanted to know everyone's name and now his favorite question is ... "Miss Sandy, What kind of car do you drive?" ☺ I love this boy so much!
And I am thrilled that we were able to create a fun-filled photo experience for Kristine and her little family - no tears, no confusion, no stress - only love, patience, andunderstanding! We cranked up 80's music while we made the magic happen and created a beautiful family wall portrait ...
The kind of portrait that she longed for ...
A portrait with all three of them smiling at the camera with no visible signs of what happens behind the scenes every day
A portrait that will let her stare into Dylan's big brown eyes that so often shift away too quickly
A portrait that lets the world see his contagious smile and makes you want to smile right back
A portrait that lets her forget for a few moments how many tears she has cried the past eight years ... How many times she has had to take a stand to be her precious boy's advocate ... How many times people have stared at Dylan and made ignorant comments ...
A portrait that shows a well-loved, well-taught handsome young man full of happiness, intelligence, and potential!
In an effort to help create more Autism awareness, acceptance and understanding, Kristine was kind enough to answer a few questions for our readers. Below is a glimpse into her world behind the Artigraphs:
AP: When was Dylan first diagnosed and what were some of the first signs that concerned you?
K: Dylan was diagnosed when he was two years old. He wasn't hitting his developmental milestones and wasn't talking, waving, had limited focus/poor eye contact, and was extremely fussy/uncooperative, especially after eating.
AP: What has been the hardest lesson to learn on this journey?
K: Life doesn't go exactly as planned. I have had to rely on myself and inner strength more than anything and learn to be my son's advocate and not take "no" for an answer from anyone. When something didn't seem quite right, I had to learn to go against the grain and fight for what I truly believed would help my son. The Autism journey is a constant struggle ... it never ends. There are good days, amazing days, really bad days, and days you wish you could forget. I have learned so much about myself and have learned so much from my son who has taught me to slow down in life - take time to look at things and appreciate even the smallest ones .. those are the ones that matter most. I am forever grateful that he taught me ... they have been life changing lessons for me and my entire family.
AP: What is the best advice you have received?
K. Let Dylan by Dylan. Don't worry about what other people think. If he is happy and not hurting anyone else ... then who cares?? People's comments and perceptions have been the hardest for me. I am just fine with my son exactly the was he is, quirks and all... it's all of the other people in the world who stare and judge that really makes Autism difficult.
AP: What's the worst advice you've received?
K: It came from his pediatrician BEFORE he was diagnosed. When I had concerns, I was told that Dylan was fine ... "ALL boys develop slower and in their own time". Obviously, I found a new pediatrician.
AP: Five words that best describe Dylan
K: HAPPY, SMILEY, SWEET, DETERMINED, and SMART
AP: Anything else you want to share with the world about your precious boy?
K: Dylan is the absolute love of my life, and I couldn't imagine life without him. His smile lights up a room and is absolutely contagious. His love of life and all of the people in it is such a gift to witness each day. There is nothing I wouldn't do for him. I will keep fighting to get what he needs to be successful in life and to continue to progress and grow. I will fight will all that I have and continue to spread awareness to others, so that some day people living with Autism will be considered different, not less.