Autism can be difficult to understand and diagnose. People affected by the disorder talk about their day-to-day lives.

Autism can be difficult to understand and diagnose. People affected by the disorder talk about their day-to-day lives.

Series: Discovering autism | Interactive: Diagnosing autism | Timeline: Key moments

Ean Bezemer, 10

Ean has a history of behavior problems and social difficulties. His mother, Pam, says: "He is a little boy who is loved very much by his family. And he has a lot of difficulty, especially in the social area."

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Jonah Funk, 13

His mother, Stacie Funk, says: "Jonah looks like a big teddy bear. You see him doing some of his behaviors, but underneath that he is such a sweet kid. ... There is an innocence about him that is pretty amazing."

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Samantha Staszower, 8

Her father, Steve, says Samantha's autism puts her at a disadvantage. "She can't write the same as other kids. The physical dexterity is not there. She is not that aware of what the world is about."

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Joseph Gutierrez, 13

Until a few years ago, his mother, Maria, had never heard of autism. She thought her son had mental retardation. Then a cousin heard a celebrity talk about autism on TV and suggested that might be Joseph's true diagnosis.

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Justin Marroquin, 8

His mother, Laura, says: "Autism in Justin today is a victory story -- a life testament about what he has overcome. ... We celebrate daily over Justin's recovery from autism."

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Jeanne Duquette, 49

Jeanne was diagnosed with autism at age 39. As a child, Jeanne was toted from specialist to specialist as her mother looked for answers to help her daughter. She was tagged with a multitude of labels as a child.

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Erin DuRousseau, 10

Erin has limited language skills and has been diagnosed with autism. Her mother, Precious Young, says: "I don't expect Erin to do more than what she can do, but I expect Erin to be her best."

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Howard McBroom, 56

McBroom didn't know he was autistic until 2003. He had spent nearly half a century not knowing why socializing was such a challenge.

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Jese Castillo, 11

Jese is profoundly autistic. By his mother's count, he can say only a dozen words. They include cookies, chocolate, shoes, pizza and Burger King. He said "Papa" for the first time last year, making his father cry.

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Credits | Photography: Francine Orr | Interactivity: Armand Emamdjomeh/@emamd, Stephanie Ferrell | Photo editing: Alan Hagman, Albert Lee, Mary Vignoles