According to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in 40 children in America are diagnosed with autism. And Jersery Shore's Jenni 'JWoww' Farley recently shared that her 2-year-old son Greyson Mathews is among them.
"Grey was recently diagnosed with autism. He's also been in early intervention for over 6 months now and doing amazing," Farley captioned a Instagram photo of Greyson with his ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapist.
"This is a new realm for us. One filled with tons of information and different theory's of treatments. So grateful Grey chose me to be his mommy and @rogermathewsnj to be his daddy 💙," Farley captioned an earlier video post showing Greyson in his new "sensory room."
Farley has been very open about how her family has been trying to help Greyson after she and his dad, Roger Matthews, noticed differences in development. In an episode of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation that aired back in August, Farley spoke candidly about Greyson's speech delays and was touched when, after the episode aired, many fans reached out to her with stories about how they've helped their own children through developmental delays.
"I cant thank you enough," Farley wrote to her fans at the time. "To find out Greyson is 'behind' or 'delayed' crushed me... but only for a moment…"
The mother of two (Greyson has an older sister, 4-year-old Meilani) explained that she had felt some disappointment related to her son's delays, and honestly stated that she believed this feeling was linked to a desire to have "perfect children"—she then went on to explain that her son is perfect the way he is. ❤️
"I've had almost every test done you can think of," Farley, wrote, telling fans that she chose to speak about this issue on reality television because she knew she couldn't be the only one to be dealing with these feelings.
Screening, diagnosis and early intervention
Now that Farley's son has a diagnosis, she can rest assured that she is far from alone. With 1 in 40 kids in the U.S. living with autism, the diagnosis is very common—which hopefully means the stigma is being torn down, as well as the barriers to treatment.
According to the Autism Society of America, early intervention is crucial for kids who have autistic spectrum disorder. Access to early intervention services "can have a huge impact on a child's behavior, functioning and future well-being" the society notes.
Unfortunately, not all kids are as lucky as Greyson, who is benefiting from early intervention therapies already, at just 2-and-a-half. Historically, more than half of kids with autism haven't been diagnosed until after they were already in school, but in recent years pediatricians, autism researchers and advocates have been making efforts to get more kids diagnosed at younger ages.
According to Autism Speaks, "Autism's hallmark signs usually appear by age 2 to 3." In some kids it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, and even if it's not clearly diagnosed yet, associated developmental delays can be identified and treated earlier.
"For some kids, we see symptoms in infancy—even before they're a year old," says Cleveland Clinic pediatric behavioral health specialist Dr. Veena Ahuja.
"For most kids, somewhere between 12 and 24 months is where we really start to see symptoms because they're not engaging in talking and imitating adults like other kids are."
At 6 months old:
- No or limited eye contact.
- No social smiles or joyful expressions directed at others.
At 12 months old:
- Not babbling.
- Not pointing, reaching, waving or using gestures to communicate.
- Not responding to name.
At 16 months old:
- Not having any words is a sign.
At 24 months old:
- No meaningful 2-word phrases.
This is why the AAP recommends pediatricians screen for autism between 18 and 24 months. Research proves that parents often pick up on the signs first, but professional evaluation is critical for accessing diagnosis and treatment. So if you do suspect your child may have autism, tell your pediatrician, and advocate for further investigation, screening and evaluation.
Autism Speaks offers a scientifically validated online screening tool for screening children between 16 and 30 months of age that assesses risk for autism spectrum disorder. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised (M-CHAT-R), comprised of a series of 20 questions about your child's behavior and can be accessed here.
In a recent Instagram post Farley expressed regret about how her son's diagnosis (something she mentioned during an interview about her upcoming personal care product line, Naturally Woww, but did not intend to be the focus of the article) became a news story.
"His story is too precious, no single article could capture that," she wrote.
It is true that every child with autism has a personal story that cannot be told in a 900-word article, and Greyson is certainly no exception. There are parts of his journey that no one, except for maybe his parents, will ever understand.
But it is also true that by speaking out about her son's diagnosis and his early intervention treatments, Farley is likely changing the lives of other children because she is breaking down the stigma.
She is part of a growing wave of parents who are letting the parents who come after them know that there is a way forward after an ASD diagnosis.
"When a family receives a diagnosis today, now they are saying, 'We're getting the diagnosis and we're also getting a list of resources, we're getting sent out into the community, to the right providers and we're getting early intervention,'" the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Veena Ahuja explains, adding, "People also know more about autism because it's in the media, so that's a huge change as well."
And Greyson's story is part of that change, so thank you for sharing it, Jenni.