JUPITER, Fla - Bobbie DuBose is always on the go, keeping up with her 4 year old bundle of energy, Jackson.
"I run. I do. A lot," she said with a laugh.
She and her husband went to Ethiopia to adopt Jackson in 2009. He was 4 months old. They had barely settled in back home in Jupiter, when DuBose noticed something amiss.
"There's usually a spark, usually a light when they see your face. They light up, they smile, they coo. There was none of that. No eye contact."
Talking, being interactive, social play did not come easily. At 18 months old, Jackson wasn't speaking.
"It could be a struggle. He required constant activity," she told me. "Always wanting to be held, but never in a manner that would allow me to look at him."
DuBose didn't know it yet, but she was seeing the first signs of autism.
Dr. Roland Gutierrez knows them well. He's part of the Pediatric Partners Medical Group in Jupiter and up to 5 percent of the children he works with are autistic.
"A 12 month old child will have interactive language and interactive games such as peek-a-boo and if you don't see that, those are red flags for autism," he explained to me. "By 15-16 months a child should be speaking words, so if you don't see words by 16 months something may be awry."
She put Jackson in speech therapy. When he was nearly 3 years old the Dan Marino Children's Center confirmed the suspicions; Jackson is autistic.
"It is devastating, yet it was liberating for me because I finally knew definitively what was wrong, and I'm a fixer," she said.
DuBose cautions that parents must be observant, looking for developmental milestones being met or unmet.
"Make sure you have a pediatrician who is willing to listen to you; who always has time to answer your questions; who never discounts those nagging concerns you as a parent may have."
Pediatricians increasingly use--or should be using--computer based diagnostic questionaires to help parents
"We found with early diagnosis, detection and treatment autism, although it can't be cured, the effects of autism can be much less," explained Dr. Gutierrez.
Jackson's days now include occupational therapy at the Nicklaus Care Center and the nonstop care and attention of friends, and his adoptive parents.
"We work very hard at making Jackson as functional as he is. He has a lot to say, a lot of energy and we work very hard as a family to channel that," she said. "I believe God brought Jackson halfway around the world for a reason."
A journey of love and challenge--that will be with Jackson, his family and so many others for a lifetime.