Meet Santiago D.

Santiago D., 5

Always advocate for your child to the best of your ability because in many cases, they are depending on you to set them up with a plan for the future. 
Stefania and Santiago smiling for a selfie

Hi, I’m Stefania, and I’d like to introduce my son, Santiago, to the Autism Speaks community. Santiago is an intelligent, energetic, sweet and polite boy that has overcome many challenges at such an early age. He’s done so with an absolute determination and always wearing a big smile.  

He has taught me how to be courageous and how to keep faith in the face of adversity, and for that I’ll always be thankful. As his mom, I am proud of everything he has accomplished – especially the many obstacles he’s overcome since being diagnosed with autism at age 3, like language development and other social skills.  

World Autism Month is the perfect opportunity to share his story to hopefully spread more information about autism and the importance of advocating for your loved ones on the spectrum. I believe more awareness leads to more understanding and more inclusion. 

Learn more about Santiago in this Spectrum Spotlight Q&A with his mom: 

Santiago at the park

How have early intervention services helped Santiago since his diagnosis? 

Early intervention is very important! In my son’s case, he was able to receive the help he needed with communication and social skills. Santiago currently receives applied behavior analysis (ABA) and speech and occupational therapies. The services Santiago receives have helped him communicate better, learn social skills that he did not have before and learn new ways of self-regulation.  

Did you realize something was different about Santiago before his diagnosis? If so, please share some of your experiences and how the diagnosis came about. 

I noticed Santiago’s language development was behind when he was 2-3 years old. Also, he would not attend to his name at times and seemed distracted.  

What were your initial thoughts when you first received your son’s diagnosis? 

As a behavior therapist, I was almost certain that Santiago had autism before being diagnosed. The day Santiago was diagnosed I felt relieved to confirm my suspicion, but worried at the same time. I felt worried just thinking if the services he was going to receive would truly help him.  

Tell us about some of the challenges he faces as a result of his autism.  

Santiago is not able to communicate properly yet and as a result he is unable to engage in a conversation. He also has difficulty at times tolerating change which can lead to meltdowns. 

How has he learned to communicate and how has that improved since his initial diagnosis? 

Santiago is able to use four or more words in a sentence, he uses adjectives and is able to talk about his environment.  

Santiago smiling

What are some of Santiago’s biggest strengths? 

Santiago is a fast learner, loves numbers and letters. His love for numbers has motivated him to learn addition and subtraction at such a young age.  

What advice would you give to other parents who have a child/children on the spectrum? 

The best advice I could give is always advocate for your child to the best of your ability because in many cases, they are depending on you to set them up with a plan for the future.   

What is your connection to Autism Speaks and how have they provided support to you and your family?  

I follow Autism Speaks via their IG page to read about other families in the autism community. It’s nice to feel that connection and realize that you and your family aren’t alone, and others have had similar life experiences.  

What are your hopes for Santiago’s future? 

I hope my son continues to excel in his communication and language skills so that one day we can have a conversation. 

The story shared above represents the experience, views and perspectives of the individual(s) highlighted. We aim to share stories across the spectrum and throughout the life span, but the information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.