Tiffany Hammond is on a mission to tell stories of her family through her 'Fidgets and Fries' website, social media platform, and her upcoming children's book, 'A Day With No Words.'
In the event of Autism Acceptance Month, a Texas mom is encouraging others to learn about autism spectrum disorder, a subject that is close to her heart. Tiffany Hammond, 38, told Good Morning America she was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at 18 and in college. But doctors no longer use that term and refer to Asperger's syndrome as a form of autism. "In college, I was just like, I don't want to tell anybody this," Hammond told GMA. "So I didn't think about it. I took the diagnosis papers and hid them in my drawers in my dorm and tried to go about life as I always was going about it."
However, her perspective has since changed, and now she is on a mission to tell stories of her family through her "Fidgets and Fries" website and social media platform and her upcoming children's book, "A Day With No Words." Hammond feels that "stories are our greatest teachers," adding, "I try to create something based on my own life that I can share with someone else so that they can get a deeper understanding of what someone else might be going through." She shared that her older son Aidan, 16, does not speak, and her younger son, Josiah, 14, can speak in some situations. "One of the things that people will tell me after they learn that my son doesn't speak is, they'll say, 'So he doesn't know words?' or 'Does he not understand anything that we're saying?'" Hammond said.
Hammond said Aidan understands words, and he communicates by using an iPad with an augmentative and alternative communication app, or AAC, that lets him tap symbols, pictures, and words. His communication method is featured prominently in "A Day With No Words," and Hammond said the children's book is not just about Aidan but also about his younger brother. "I wanted to honor my son in every possible way that I could. And then I wanted to challenge the reader, so I wanted to entertain them and also challenge them," Hammond said.
With the book, illustrated by artist Kate Cosgrove, Hammond hopes to make readers "think more deeply about their communication and their interactions with one another" and "apply that to everyone and especially to people like my son." She adds, "There are a lot of us out there and just learning just a little bit can go a long way -- just opening up your understanding and your eyes a little bit more and inviting yourself to learn about an experience that you do not know yet, that helps so much." Hammond concluded, "Even if you never in your entire life come across another or a single person that has autism, learning about autism still helps you to be a better human, it still helps you to be more compassionate and more understanding, just to learn about the many different ways that we can be human."
In a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 36, or 2.8%, of 8-year-olds in the United States were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2020, compared to 1 in 44, or 2.3%, of 8-year-olds in 2018. Boys experience autism spectrum disorder at a rate nearly four times higher than girls, reported CDC. The report also found that autism among 8-year-old girls has exceeded 1%. Autism can be identified during infancy, although most children are diagnosed at 2. According to GMA, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children be screened for autism at 18- and 24-month-old. The AAP says pediatricians will begin monitoring babies by observing their behaviors.