MOORE — Lila Brown is an adorable toddler with a love for the Bubble Guppies and Yo Gabba Gabba. But unlike many of her peers, Lila avoids eye contact, doesn’t like to play with other kids, and the bustle at a restaurant or store can be so overwhelming that she will break down.
“She wanted to have zero interaction,” said her dad Bill Brown, owner of Custom Reef Creation in Moore. “She didn’t smile at us.”
Lila, who had many medical issues since birth, always had a harder time than other kids her age. As a baby she screamed the majority of her waking hours due to gastrointestinal issues, spent a lot of time at her pediatrician’s office, but when she stopped engaging with the world around, her parents suspected that she may be struggling with autism.
Last week, their suspicion was confirmed. At 22 months, Lila was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. There are still more questions than answers, but at least the parents now have a diagnosis to work with.
During April, national Autism Awareness Month, her parents Bill and Melinda Brown, who own a small family business in Moore, are trying to raise awareness of the disorder and hope that their experience can help others. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder.
Despite increased educational efforts, it is still a very misunderstood disorder. Every day, the people living with autism and their families face unique and daunting challenges that many of us will never fully appreciate or understand.
Brown said people tried to be helpful by suggesting that Lila would “grow out of it.”
“They would say stuff like ‘My kid didn’t start talking until she was 3’ or ‘Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.’ But we knew it wasn’t,” he said. “A lot of people said ‘Give it time, give it time, give it time.’”