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'What Color is Monday?' A look at life with autism

New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders – one in 50 – up from previous estimates of one in 88.

And while most parents often focus on finding a reason for why their child is different – author Carrie Cariello recently sat down with Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com, to share how her son has changed her family for the better.

Her book, “What Color Is Monday?” started out as a creative outlet for the mother of five, a way to reflect on her day. But, eventually, it became more purposeful – she wanted to give autism a face by sharing her son, Jack, with the world.

Cariello struggled to find a title for her book. At first, she thought about using the word ‘snowflakes’ somewhere in the title, because she thinks people with autism are all unique and fragile. But, one day, Jack asked her, “Mom, what color do you see Monday?” She responded that she did not see the days of the week as having different colors, but Jack told her he did see every day as a different color.

Cariello wanted to chronicle her days with Jack, which was one reason she started to write the book; and then she wanted people to understand what he was like. Now, she said the book is for anyone who has been touched by autism.

She added that having a son who is autistic has changed her parenting style – she has slowed down and she is more mindful across the board. Her children – whether they realize it or not – have all adapted and given Jack the room to grow.

“They’ve given him stability,” she said.

Cariello admitted she’s guilty of sometimes trying to overexpose Jack to more; that at times she is caught up on the ‘hamster wheel’ – but “he’s shown me you have to appreciate the gifts” that life has to offer every day, and you can’t get stuck on that wheel because “it doesn’t always turn out productive.”

Jack is almost 9 years old, Cariello said, and “he’s a remarkable, funny, happy little boy.”

She said she does worry about what will happen when he’s older –will he be able to live independently?

For now, she concentrates on the present day, and offers this bit of advice: Take time for yourself, because when you grow as a person, you can only give back.

To learn more about Cariello and her son, check out her blog www.whatcolorismonday.com.