CJ developed “typically” until he was about one and a half.  I think that was the first time I told his doctor that I was concerned about his speech.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have any words, he did have a few, and he was able to get his point across other ways, such as gesturing.  The doctor felt that his abilities were still within normal range.  At our next routine well-baby check up I reiterated the same concerns, the doctor reiterated her feedback.  I’d been told time and again “you can’t compare your kid with someone else’s” but how could I not when other children his age are speaking in phrases and he still used only a few words, not to mention the “squawking” and obvious frustration and quirks he would exhibit at times.  We moved back home from North Carolina to Pennsylvania late in 2011.  I again voiced my concern at the first visit he had with his new Pennsylvania doctor in 2012 and immediately was told about CSIU (Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit).  In no time we had someone to our home who agreed that CJ would benefit from speech therapy, and we discussed the possibility of autism and paths to diagnosis.  Because of unfortunate timing, CJ had to wait until the fall to begin speech therapy, but in the meantime we made a move to our permanent home and set up yet again with a new doctor.  We filled her in on what had taken place thus far and we asked about a referral to a neurodevelopmental pediatrician.  I had heard the wait list was about a year, so I was not surprised when we got “kicked back” to pediatric neurology, a common occurrence when waiting to see the expert.  We still had to wait a couple months to see the neurologist in January 2013.  This doctor told us that CJ was not autistic, that he would classify him as PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified), and that in a year’s time CJ would be just like all the other average kids.  The diagnosis PDD-NOS was actually removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) Version 5 by the American  Psychiatric Association (APA) in May 2013.  I was frustrated because a diagnosis of PDD-NOS wasn’t going to open any more doors for us, and even though we had been getting speech therapy for CJ, it was only 1.5 hours a week, not nearly what he needed.  We didn’t expect to be able to meet with a neurodevelopmental pediatrician until February 2014, but by some act of grace, we were seen a couple weeks before his 4th birthday in July 2013.  This evaluation felt very different from the family doctors’ and the neurologist’s.  This was much more in depth and they asked questions that no one else had asked before.  Dr. Challman of the Gesinger-Bucknell Autism & Developmental Medicine Center finally handed down the diagnosis I always suspected, autism spectrum disorder.  This official diagnosis does not change anything about who CJ is or my love and devotion to him.  What this official diagnosis does is opens doors that were previously closed to CJ.  He is now in a specialized classroom three days a week and will soon be evaluated to see about getting “wrap around” services to help reinforce language and behaviors for times he’s not in that classroom.  We’ve already seen great progress!  It makes me wonder how he would have progressed if we had gotten the ball rolling with all of this at age 1.5 instead of 4.  That’s why Geisinger’s Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute is the recipient of half of the funds raised from CJ’s Resolution Challenge.  I also think about how tough it was navigating all of that and how frustrating and lonely it was at times.  That’s why Operation Jack Autism Foundation is the recipient of the other half of the funds raised.  We need more support for families struggling with autism and we need more professionals trained in diagnosing and managing these disorders.  CJ’s Resolution Challenge is one step forward in working to achieve those goals.