MIAMI (CBS4) – Five-year-old Rocco Armao likes to play and have fun like any child his age. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, the highest functioning form of autism.
“I knew that he wasn’t meeting the milestones that he should be,” said Rocco’s mom, Valerie Armao. “He wasn’t engaging appropriately with the other children.”
According to austimsspeaks.com, autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States. Five-year-old Rocco began having problems attending birthday parties, going to the park and playing with other children when he was three.
“His main preference was to play by himself or be with an adult.” said Armao.
The child’s speech, vocabulary and knowledge are well above the level of a kindergartener. All of those are common traits of a child with Aspergers. But he does struggle with sensory issues, fine motor skills and behavior.
Rocco told CBS4’s Kara Kostanich his favorite dinosaur is the tyrannosaurus rex. He held his hands in a “U” formation when he said his favorite football team was the University of Miami Hurricanes.
After being asked to leave his preschool class permanently, due to behavior associated with Aspergers, Rocco’s Mom enrolled him into a school that specializes in working with children with autism. He also began treatment and therapy at the Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center.
“I feel like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulder,” said Armao. “Now he is at the place he needs to be and getting the helps he needs to excel.”
Rocco is not alone in his fight against autism. Statistics show autism now affects one in every 88 children in the United States.
But for this young Miami Hurricanes fan, the future looks bright.
“There’s nothing he can’t do. I think he is going to excel; I think he is going to surpass everyone expectations,” Armao said.