In the beginning, Lance seemed like a typical baby. He smiled, sat up, and walked. "He could say about five or six words, like 'mama' and 'dada,'" says his mother, Stacy Strombeck-Goodrich. "He hit all of his milestones right on time."
So the Gilbert, Arizona, mom was perplexed when at about 18 months, Lance, now 3 1/2, started sliding backward. "He got really quiet. Not just no words, but no babbling, no sounds at all." Other skills evaporated too. "He wasn't pointing or waving bye-bye anymore," she says. When Lance stopped responding to his name, his mom had his hearing checked. It was fine. Strombeck-Goodrich was stumped -- until she saw a TV report that made her wonder if Lance was autistic. A specialist soon confirmed Lance's diagnosis. "To hear somebody actually say 'autism' was shocking," Strombeck-Goodrich says.
Lance is among the 1 in 150 U.S. kids who will be diagnosed with autism by age 8. What does being autistic mean? Is there a cure? Here, answers to tough questions.