Bronx boy inspires new global Autism Speaks PSA hoping to educate people and eradicate the stigma

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“Yeah I am totally different!” Jacob Sanchez smiled.

Jacob Sanchez isn't shy about being unique.

“It feels like awesome!" he said.

An outspoken, bright-eyed 11-year-old boy, his family never thought he would be.

“He was very quiet, didn’t cry very much, essentially the perfect child." Carmen Sanchez, mother, remembered. “His two-year-old well visit was when the doctor called us in for a separate meeting to discuss the possibility of autism or a developmental delay and I kind of just sank.”

A feeling of pain, uncertainty and guilt flooded Carmen's mind.

"All at one time I thought what did I do wrong, I read every book, ate well, I did everything that I thought I should do and that I failed in some way,” she said.

She knows now it had nothing to do with her, and more importantly, that they're not alone. According to CDC, autism affects about one in every 68 kids. A statistic that made this mom think twice about having more children.

“Terribly afraid, it was something [my husband and I] discussed a lot”, Carmen said. "The second child we decided to have because we felt like Jacob needed to be forced to be around people.”

“I see him as a normal person," Sean Sanchez said.

Sean loves his older brother very much, but he knows not everyone sees Jacob the way he does.

“He tries to fit in, but people, in his school, they don’t treat him right," he said.

“It makes me feel bad because when I keep talking to people, they just want to walk away from me because no one’s my friend," Jacob explained.

Jacob has problems with speech and interaction, as well as a sensitivity to light and noise. People can be mean but they also can just be uneducated about autism. Which is was organizations like Autism Speaks aim to change.

“These are our neighbors, these are our family members, these are people in our community," CJ Volpe, chief of media strategy at Autism Speaks, said. "We all need to unite together and support each other.”

With Jacob's story as an inspiration, the charity created a new PSA to start a conversation.

“We’re so grateful as a family to Autism Speaks, from the very beginning they’ve been one of the websites that were our go to,” Carmen explained. "So for us it’s an honor to be a part of something that really is helping them to reach out.”

And for these brothers, it was their time to shine!

“They’re saying oh it’s beautiful, the story I liked him, my child’s autistic too,” Sean said.

“I was so happy!” Jacob smiled. "I was adorable!"

With a spirit that lights up a room and a smile worth a thousand words, Jacob and his family know like will never be ordinary and that's okay.

He’s sort of changing the way that we all look at what autism is," Carmen said as she fought back tears. “I know that he can do anything that he sets his mind on.”

 

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi