BANGOR, Maine (WABI) More than 6,000 Mainers are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.
Individuals with ASD have varying communication and social disabilities.
And life is very different living on the spectrum.
Krissy Martin is a mother of 3, two of which have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
She says, "We do not live a normal life. We live an autistic life, but that's normal for us."
Gabriel is 6 and Ki 3. They're living on different levels of the spectrum.
Both boys were diagnosed at 2-years-old and display typical ASD symptoms.
Martin says, "We call it stimming. Stimming is when a child gets over stimulated, too much music, too much noise, too much light, a sensory overload. They each have their own. It's usually rocking or it's usually spinning."
Both boys are also non-verbal.
Through the many therapy sessions that Martin takes the kids to, Gabriel has begun to regain some of his speech.
Martin says, "Parents take for granted that your child can say I love you and you'll be like yea I love you too because you hear it so often. But, when you don't hear it…I never thought I would hear him say I love you mom again. I took it for granted, now I don't. Ki, someday I will. I'll hear it."
Ki, is completely non-verbal constantly struggling to communicate.
Martin says, "I did see some improvement. The other day we were at The Christmas Tree Shop and I think he was getting tired and he kept pulling at my shirt and he said up, up. Oh my goodness, did you just say up? And he said Da-Da the other day. So, it's coming. It's not repetitive, it's sporadic but it's something. It's hope."
Gabriel being the first born, Martin had to learn the ins and outs of what having a child with ASD means, like dealing with school.
Gabriel was suspended numerous times from school until Martin says she finally put her foot down.
She says, "When I left that school in tears and crying I decided then, I need to become his advocate. I need to learn as much as I can about Autism."
And that's exactly what she's done.
Martin says, "I read, I go to seminars, whatever I can do to improve his quality of life, I'm going to do it. "
Not every day has been easy.
She says, "There's been many a time I've sat on my kitchen floor and cried with them. I've cried."
But each child offers something special like Gabriel and his obsession with Pac-Man.
Martin says, "He goes onto youtube and he memorizes the moves. Left, right, right, left, left, left, right, right. And then he goes and he does the game and then he wins. Mom I won. Mom, mom I won. Mom, mom I won. I won Mom. Mom, I won. Mom, mom I won. Because he repeats himself."
She says, "Ki is sweet. He beats to his own drum and we either beat behind him or we get left behind."
And she is proud to be their mother and champion.
Martin says, "The one thing I don't like, and I'm asked this all the time is, how do you do it? They're my kids. Of course I'm going to do it. I'm going to do whatever I can for them."
Martin echoed the word hope that I heard so often from those I spoke with in the A-S-D community.
She says she hopes for her kids' futures to shine as bright as they do.