Autism both a challenge and a blessing, family says

May 21, 2012

Damien O'Connor believes his 10-year-old daughter, Mary Rose, is the happiest child he's ever met.

She loves to dance in the backyard with her favourite stuffed animals.

When she prays the rosary, she doesn't say it, she sings it.

When Mary Rose was a year and a half old, overnight she stopped responding in ways she had previously.

Three psychologists confirmed she had a form of autism.

"We were devastated," said O'Connor, of the diagnosis revealed to him and his wife, Monica.

About nine months later, three-year-old Damien Jr. began acting unusually.

"We never dreamed it would be the same diagnosis," he said. But it was.

Two out of three of the couple's children are autistic.

Through their Catholic faith, and support from doctors, their school district in Milford, Conn., and their parish, the O'Connors see their children's disabilities not only as challenges, but blessings.

"(Though) our family situation is nowhere near perfect," he said. "I love and adore (my children) for who they are."