WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Five-year-old Efrain Sanchez is energetic and enthusiastic in his kindergarten class at the Palm Beach School for Autism.
He has come far in the three years since his father received the call telling him of the diagnosis.
"I just want you to know your son's autistic," Efrain Sanchez says, recalling the call. "That was a bomb."
Like so many families, their introduction to autism was jarring. The Sanchez's were forced to move into a different environment, where the smallest accomplishment is a major milestone.
"When we introduce him to friends he makes eye contact which for us like wow, a celebration," said Sanchez.
"When parents tell us their children made eye contact, or say their first words, it's huge," said Ann Levene-Eisenberg," the executive director of the Palm Beach School for Autism.
"To parents that means their child is connecting; their child actually sees the parent. There's nothing worse for parents, especially in the stage when their children aren't making that connection."
As a parent of a child with autism, and with classrooms filled with students with autism, she sees the stages parents go through.
"In the beginning they're unsure. You don't really trust anybody. You're not really sure what direction your child is going to take. All these wishes and dreams facing parents for any child; will they come true," she said.
Little Efrain is considered on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum, displaying good cognitive and social skills.
Now the question is, how much will he progress?
"I just want him to be able to do the things I did," said his father.
"At this point they can still hold on to a lot of those dreams," said Levene-Eisenberg.
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