I remember those Thanksgiving dinners growing up. We all sat around the dinner table, enjoying the conversation and company of our family. It was a special time for me. For my cousin though, it was terrible. Everything that was special about holidays was difficult for her. The conversation, the unfamiliar environment, the unusual food, the demands placed on her social communication skills. Holidays were not for her. My cousin, Cindy [pseudonym], could often be found sitting alone, away from others. Sometimes though she would have excruciating meltdowns. I knew it was hard for my aunt and uncle. We all felt helpless and didn't quite know what to do.

I first became interested in developmental disabilities even before I knew exactly what they were. I learned that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 1 in 59 people, at least those are our current rates based on...

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