Staring at a page of a Pokémon book, Sawyer lifts his arms and legs and waves his hands excitedly. If he could, he would continue pouring over the book for most of the day—never eating, drinking or moving from that one spot in the living room.
The first word Sawyer spoke was “robot.’’ A robot was on television and another was in a book he had seen. He was 19 months old and had made only cooing sounds before that. Sawyer’s parents were shocked that he could make those connections and could actually speak.
At a little over age two, Sawyer was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. He is seven now and works with an aide in his home several hours a week after school where he’s accompanied by a different aide. He practices responding to people who talk to him and calming his occasional urges to flail his arms and legs or cry when he’s frustrated.
Sawyer’s parents, Amy and Eric, focus on the progress they have seen in Sawyer in recent years. He has learned to speak in full sentences, have conversations and look up and respond when someone calls his name. Not so long ago, when asked to stop looking at a book, Sawyer would often scream, cry and sometimes drop to the floor. That seldom happens now.
He is working on better handling his anger and frustration by stepping out of the room or taking a deep breath. And he’s learning to say what is bothering him rather than leave people guessing. Recently a classmate pushed him. “Leave me alone,” Sawyer told him. That was a major feat.
“The world isn’t going to change for him,’’ Amy points out. “The people at Nationwide Children’s Hospital are giving him tools for better surviving and thriving in the world.”