Family's Struggle: All Six Kids Are Autistic

"She's not potty trained, she's 6 years old, and she's not potty trained," says John. "She does a lot of screaming, that's how she communicates."

"We have to strap Sarah in when she eats, because otherwise, she'll just bounce around, so, in order to get her to sit there and finish a meal, I have to strap her in," explains Robin.

Ammon used to rock in a recliner so violently that he once flipped himself over, and would spend hours and hours shredding paper.

"He sways his head and bobs, and when he's in the bathtub, he likes to pour water continuously over his head and watch the water fall. He flaps his hands, and he moves his head," says John.

PDD-NOS

With the least severe form of autism, called PDD-NOS, 3-year-old Mary is the youngest of the brood.

"She's about a year delayed with her language. She's also emotionally behind, as well. She gets upset and has these little meltdowns, as well. She does a little bit of hand flapping," says Robin.

How could this happen to all six?

"The current feeling is, it's a combination of genetic risk and some environmental risk that either determines what kind of autism the child has, or how severe the autism is," explains Goldstein.

No matter how severe the autism, this disorder can be financially crippling for families. The average cost of caring for just one autistic child is $500 a month.

"The biggest factor that is holding us back, and a lot of autistic parents, is being able to afford to try different things, because there are some methods out there that cost a tremendous amount of money," explains John.

Feeling Incredibly Blessed

Despite the challenges that daily life with six autistic children can bring, John and Robin say they feel incredibly blessed to have them.

"They're just so wonderful in their own unique ways, and we accept them and love them for who they are, and they just bring so much joy into our lives, and we just love being their parents," says Robin.

"We do love them, and want to take care of them, and just hope for a better day to make their lives easier," says John.

Blogging For Support

The Kirton family has also started a Web site, a sort of cyber support group for parents of autistic children. Click here to visit their site AutismBites.com.

Click here to read more about autism from the Kennedy Kreiger Institute.

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