Adam Mojica didn't change all of a sudden on his second birthday. But this was the day — the very day — that changed his parents forever.
"People were calling his name and he wasn't listening to anybody," recalls Jesse Mojica, Adam's father. "His Godmother said to us, and we'll always remember it, she said,' I hate to think of it, but do you think he may be autistic?' And we thought — autism. Adam's not like 'Rainman'. That was our reference."
The movie may be a lot of people's reference. Or, maybe they think of the inspirational story of autistic high school basketball hero. But for most parents of autistic children, the reality of autism is nothing worth celebrating.
Autism is a neurological disorder that impairs social interaction, making it hard to communicate. It usually comes with some kind of repetitive behavior or obsessive interest.
In severe cases like Adam's, autism can almost seem like mental retardation. Adam, now 7 years old, doesn't talk. It took two years just to get him to hold a marker. Lunch remains a food fight.
Even a normal boy's instinct to hug his father just isn't there with Adam.
Does his father know what is going on in his mind? Is it a blank slate, or like Einstein's? "It's a good point," Jesse Mojica answers. "But I would definitely say from a father's perspective it's not a blank slate."
Says Adam's mother, Ana: "It's in there, but it's a matter of how to bring it out."
At Adam's school in New York, they use the most common autism therapy, one that gets him to focus on basic tasks. But there are hundreds of other therapies out there.
"I think that's the tough part about autism — that there is no definitive, 'this is what will work, definitely,'" Jesse Mojica says.
Their latest attempt is musical, a therapy where people basically chase you around the room with instruments. It may or may not be doing any good, but the Mojicas say you have to try everything. Once you have a kid locked in autism, you'll do anything to find a key.
His father explains, "We've dedicated our lives to doing that and there is no greater charge in life than this."