Text and photographs by Sacha Ginsberg
CNS Special Report
WASHINGTON – Sarah D. (whose family requested not to use their last name), 12, has a passion for life and people. She is curious and is not afraid to ask questions, even to strangers. She was also born with autism.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 1 in 88 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a delay of brain development. The severity of the disorder varies among individuals, ranging from mild to severe, and often manifests itself in unusual social interactions and repetitive behaviors.
While Sarah does not have trouble communicating her thoughts, she has difficulty with social cues, and often displays repetitive behaviors, such as asking questions. She is not afraid to go up to strangers and ask them many questions about different topics.
“How old are you? What age group are you, a young adult? Why do you say ‘cheese’ when someone takes a picture of you? Do you go to the dentist? Orthodontist? Optometrist? Is your dentist a boy or a girl? What color eyes does he have?” Once she has finished asking all the questions on her mind, she will repeat them all over again.
As Sarah grows older, her family worries that she will never be able to become completely independent. Her parents must teach and ingrain certain things into her memory. Sarah is difficult at times, but she is also the spark of life in her family that they could never live without.