Early Autism Diagnosis Changes Young Boy's Life

One in 88 children suffers from autism -- a number that has spiked over the past four decades thanks to increased awareness and diagnosis.

So an effort to keep increasing that knowledge, April 2nd is declared "World Autism Awareness Day."

"As bad as it sounds, when we started this whole process,  it was a nightmare. He was a terror and I just avoided dealing with him a lot," said Pamela Lala.

Her son, four-year-old Alex, was diagnosed with autism last April.

Pamela knew something was wrong when at sixteen months old, Alex quit talking -- completely.

In the months that followed, Pamela worked to learn more about the disorder that we're learning is affecting more and more children every day.

"He's not screaming his head off anymore," she said. "When something's wrong, or it hurts, he can let me know and I can help, because now I know."

Melissa Richardson is the clinical director for West Texas Autism.

She's also the one who gets down on the floor with Alex during two-hour therapy sessions for activities, like one involving several instruments.

"It's called play with a purpose, so like with me directing and going fast and then slow, and Alex following -- it helps with compliance."

Richardson said children who suffer from autism can suffer from a wide-range of symptoms.

Alex's is primarily non-compliance.

"We had a meltdown here once that lasted an hour and forty five minutes, a completely temper tantrum," Richardson said.

But after months of therapy, the change is clear.

"It's been night and day, it's a completely different child than when we first started," Pamela said.

That's why her message to other parents who might suspect their child also suffers from the disorder is simple.

"Don't be afraid to get tested. I hear so many parents say they don't want that label, but you know what? Quit worrying about the labels. My kid's not autistic, he has autism. Autism doesn't own him, he owns it."

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