NEW FAIRFIELD -- These days, 14-year old, Christopher Norris has a lot to talk about, especially when it comes to his works of art.
“I might be the greatest artist in the universe someday,” said Christopher.
Every picture and every word is special, because at one time, he was never this expressive.
“Where are his words? We couldn't find those words,” said Christopher’s mom, Linda Norris.
At age two, Christopher’s parents began to realize something wasn’t right.
“Back then, people would say, he's a boy. If he doesn't talk at two, so what. Boys don't talk. Boys are later in talking. Oh he's just busy,” said Christopher’s dad, Chris Norris.
The Norris' kept busy, trying to figure out what was going on. They were told to see a neurologist who could do an autism evaluation. It was “terrifying,” his parents explained.
Also terrifying was the year and a half wait time to get an appointment in Connecticut. So, they started calling other places across the country.
“One of the places was Montana. So, we called Montana,” said Linda.
Even in Montana, there was a years-long wait. But, fortunately for the Norris family, Yale was conducting a study on autism at the time and Christopher was allowed to participate. The Norris family said that study changed their lives because they were able to get Christopher the help he needed, quickly and at a time when autism wasn't fully understood.
“There wasn't a whole lot you could find. You kind of felt on an island,” said Chris Sr.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, which includes significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Research indicates, early intervention can dramatically change the course of a child's life for the better.
Today, the Norris family is trying to help others after realizing the power of support, especially at the walks put on by Autism Speaks.
“There are thousands of people there. You’re not alone. There are thousands of people,” said Linda.
They’re also raising money for research and to develop lifelong support for those with autism, so help is also available through adulthood.
“Early intervention is key, but, they grow up. As much as we'd like to, we can't be here forever,” said Linda.
The Norris family said Christopher’s future is looking bright thanks to a supportive school system as well. A child who once spoke very few words is now taking on another language and getting ready for his French exam.
Teamchristopher.com has brought in more than $155,000 since the Norris' began raising money in 2005.