Checkup after checkup, the first 18
months of Giacomo Pisani's life had his mom walking out of the
doctor's office hearing the most reassuring word a parent could
"We used to say he was going to be the
pope, he was such a peaceful child," says his mom, Dyana, about her
sweet, dark-haired first-born.
But by his 18-month well-baby checkup
things had changed. "He was a different child," she says.
The boy who was talking well at a year
suddenly wasn't. Don't worry, people told Pisani who was already
But Pisani knew in her heart and
experts soon confirmed it: Giacomo had autism. Intervention started
early, with speech therapy, developmental play groups and
occupational therapy, early help she believes is leading to
"That just became our life, going to
therapy," Pisani says.
Giacomo is now mainstreamed into a
regular second-grade classroom, testing on a second-grade level
with his peers, reading at a third-grade level, yet he can't tie
his shoes or ride a bike. He's obsessed with the calendar and
cooking shows on PBS, doesn't like changes in his routine and will
only eat seven foods.
"No day is ordinary," Pisani says as
tears fall and her 4-year-old, Charise, snuggles in closer to mom
while watching Dora the Explorer. "You mourn. He won't play
baseball with dad … Yet as much as you mourn it, you embrace
Still, Pisani's mind sometimes falls to
the what-ifs, especially the big what if, what if she didn't get
the MMR shot that seemed to coincide with the changes in Giacomo.
It was enough of a worry that she wouldn't allow the combined
vaccine for Charise.
Pisani, of Edison Park, has thrown
herself into researching autism and reaching out to other parents.
She admits managing only five hours a night of sleep, with the rest
of her time spent seeking and sharing information on the Internet
while her husband and children sleep.
Life with autism is not all doom and
gloom, she says.
While autism has turned the family's life upside down, she says,
"Upside down isn't so bad."
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