James and Kate married in November of their twentieth year; three months later, Kate was pregnant. They didn’t know this until late May or early June. After some debate, they decided to go ahead with the pregnancy (even though they both did not feel ready to be parents), since there was nothing else that could be done at that point. When their son Parker was born a week and a half after their first anniversary, they were both happy. The birth was not an easy one, and Parker’s first Apgar test came back as a 2; his second was an 8. Parker spent his first night in the neonatal intensive care unit. About eighteen months later, James’s mother, Sacha—a registered nurse who had worked at another regional center—noticed more and more that Parker wasn’t developing as he should. She brought up her fears to James and Kate, and they agreed to have a team from the regional center come out to observe. After a couple in-home visits, the team recommended that Parker be brought in to see a psychologist at the regional center. After an hour or so of testing, the psychologist came back with words none of them wanted to hear: Autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder—None Other Specified [also called PDD-NOS for short], as well as a slight case of mental retardation.
Parker is now seven and a half years old, and is in second grade. James and Kate are divorced, but they both are proud of him and the advances he has made. He is still very much delayed in terms of his development and learning, but he has a great imagination. In his last psychological evaluation, he was asked to draw a person; he drew the psychologist as Batman. He has yet to see a Disney-Pixar movie that he does not love.
Parker’s story may seem strange to many parents; even those with autistic children. Autism is now considered a spectrum disorder, unlike when Leo Kanner initially diagnosed it. Kanner concluded in his 1943 paper: