In Focus: Unlocking Mireya’s World as presented by: Denver Post

Her name is Mireya. She is 3 years and 3 months old. She has fine black hair, a thing for “Handy Manny” cartoons and one of the most prominent last names in Colorado. Many nights, Mireya Salazar will not fall asleep unless her feet are touching her mother and her head is touching her grandmother. It’s part of an elaborate bedtime ritual in which she must place her pillow with the pink checkerboard and butterfly pattern just so, in the middle of the bed. She has other routines, other rules. Every door in the house must be closed. If they are not, she will slam them shut. She won’t eat a broken Cheerio or pasta that is not white. She can seem more interested in a pink balloon than in her father, more fascinated with a blank space in the distance than in “Papa Ken” — her grandfather, Interior Secretary and former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar. What few baby words she once had are lost. She hums when upset, as if she is sounding an alarm. The fears of her family were confirmed when Mireya was diagnosed with autism, a confounding neurological disorder that affects an estimated one in 110 U.S. children. Hope and Mireya share a moment as they play at the home of Mireya's paternal grandparents in Brighton on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Hope said she tries to bring Mireya to see her family weekly to keep them involved in Mireya's busy life. Mireya Salazar signs that she is all done to her one-on-one teacher Lorna Cochrane at Firefly Autism on Thursday, March 17, 2011. Mireya, who has yet to develop verbal communication skills, is learning to sign, and in doing so, was directed to point at her desired block rather than grab at it. Salazar began attending Firefly in February after her family researched and decided their one-to-one teacher to student ratio and general practices would best benefit her. Mireya rests her head on aunt Melinda's shoulder after a haircut appointment at the Salazar home on Friday, March 25, 2011. Her grandmother said it is impossible to take Mireya to a salon and found it is easier to bring their stylist to the house.

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