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Keep pushing forward

So where to begin? I have always struggled with my autism even though at times I never told anyone but then again those times I didn't really ask for help or communicate to well, it wasn't up until my junior year in highschool I actually opened up and did whatever it would take to speak more up, but there are times I still don't really communicate verbally to well. For the people in my life who have seen me struggle with it I had vowed myself that I would stand up to it and show that Autism doesn't control me but I am who autism says I am and for that I have always pushed myself forward regardless of the struggle, I graduated high school and went straight off to college, I took leadership roles whenever the possibility came up while making a ton of supportive friends along the way and they continue to stick by my side. I know I have made many people proud even if I may still to this very day struggle with it but you know what they say in finding nemo you just have to keep swimming.

Green Bay, WI

The Many Emotions of Autism

This is a true story of inspiration about my little brother Ryan. When Ryan was 2, the doctors diagnosed him with autism, and told my mother that she would never see him have friends, he would never be a part of the family and would never tell her he loved her. The diagnosis was grim and Autism wasn't well known. As a single mother of four in a small town with little outside resources, my mother worked her hardest to raise Ryan like any other normal kid. She demanded a regular school curriculum with a teacher's aide. When Ryan entered middle school, he took the attention of the high school basketball coach, who asked him to be the team manager when he hit 9th grade. Ryan spent his first two years of high school in a slow learner's curriculum, but at the end of his sophomore year his teacher retired, and told my mother she felt Ryan was ready for regular school. He did his last two years of high school in regular courses and graduated on the Honor Roll. He also served as lunch help in the cafeteria washing dishes for a small salary. Ryan then went to "college", which was a series of courses at the local career center based around life skills and job skills. Despite being autistic, he was able to lead a normal life throughout school and graduated as one of the most popular kids in his high school.

Ryan turns 23 this fall. The local disability centers has him hired temporarily as an office help, and he also has a full time job at an eye doctor's as office help. Although he lives with our mother, he is fully able to live on his own, and has spent weekends alone in the house cooking his own meals on the stove.

Autism often comes with a grim diagnosis and the promise of a difficult life, but it doesn't have to be if you don't want it to be. Ryan is one such case. (Video - local news, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eE3r0vRqrA)

Jenna Schwartz
Coshocton, OH

My Four Boys

When I first embarked upon the journey of motherhood, I imagined chubby babies, lot's of cuddles, scraped knees and slightly precocious children. I never dreamed that I would have a child with autism. When my first son was diagnosed, I certainly didn't think that I would have two with autism. But then my next child was diagnosed too. Then we skipped one and my fourth child was born and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy, dysphasia, and microcephaly. I remember being so thankful in the middle of all these new diagnosis, and medical terms, that I had produced at least one child that had no maladies of any kind. I was so extremely thankful in fact, that I completely missed (ignored) all of his warning signs and symptoms. I think I was overwhelmed......being a widow, and mother of four children is hard enough. But thinking that now ALL of my children have some sort of special need was simply devastating. But then the day came when I could no longer ignore it. You see, it should never have been about what I was comfortable with looking at, but what was best for ALL of my children. In the end, I had him tested, and the diagnosis came back the same as the others. He was in fact autistic too. It was this moment that would truly put us all on a new path for life. I went back to college and am currently studying to teach special education. It has become my mission to learn about my children, and others like them, and to make a positive difference in their lives. I have already learned so much. Each day they teach me about compassion, decency, and love in it's purest form. I will spend every day I have left on this earth in service to them. My four boys; wow.

mesick, MI

my gentle giant

Joseph was born in Nov. Of 07. He is my first child and I at the time was 20.His dad and I at the time didn't understand why our baby went from almost reciting all his alphabet and numbers (up to 5) at the age of 2 and all of a sudden by 3 he was back to baby talk or pointing to what he wanted. He was potty trained by the time was 2 1/2 yrs old but accident after another, we found our selves back at potty training. It was frustrating to not be able to help him like needed and not knowing what had I done wrong that my son isn't learning the basic things a child his age should know. it all changed the summer of 2011, he was evaluated and he was diagnosed with high functioning autism with a speech delay. I remember crying myself to sleep that night. I felt as if I had failed him for not helping him sooner. Fast forward to 2014 and 2 schools later, my big boy is now talking, holding a short conversation with you. He's now interested in making friends and we're learning how to verbalize frustration instead of acting on it. I still find my self wondering what have I done for god to of blessed me with this beautiful little person. Greatful for it all and ready to keep pushing forward.

bre Rodriguez
houston, TX

My love Johnny.....

Sixteen years ago, I gave birth to the most beautiful lil man, his name is Johnny. I didn't know my life would profoundly change but it did. I wouldn't change him for the world. Through all his challenges from echolalia, tantrums, quirks, meltdowns, learning difficulties and education.......he indeed taught me more about life than I could ever teach him. Johnny taught me what really is important in life, seeing life through his eyes & what is important to him has made me a better person. Our little triumphs from finally being potty trained at the age of 4, to finally learning his colors at the age of 8 to learning to tie his shoes at the age of 11, may seem small to some but for us, it was a beautiful milestone. After not being able to communicate to singing in the choir in middle school filled my heart with pure joy. He was the only disabled kid to graduate 8th grade and when he received his diploma brimming with pride, the audience erupted in a standing ovation. Johnnny received the last award of the night, the student that displayed the most perserverance, and did he ever earn that award!! As most parents of an autistic child know, our kids need to work so much harder to learn. All things that "typical" family's take for granted. I thank God for the people I was surrounded with, from his loving sister & protector, Lyndsay to his child study team, loving family & friends & neighbors. I was blessed to live in a community where Johnny was the "mayor". Everyone knew him and looked after him. As time goes by, Johnny continues to impress me and continues to fill my heart with pure joy. He truly is the most beautiful and loving soul I know and definitely an angel on earth. I'm truly blessed to be his Mom. ~~~~~~~~Written with love, Christine Boucouvalas

Christine Boucouvalas
Edgewater Park, NJ

Au-some Austin

Austin was born, free of complications, at 36 weeks. He thrived. He blew every milestone out of the water from 0-12 months; an over-achiever some would say. He was clapping his hands, mimicking words and far exceeding all fine motor skill expectations by 8 months old. By 12 months old progress slowed and by 18 months old progress came to a complete halt & we even saw some mild regressions.

In June 2013, Austin turned 2 years old. He had no words, very little fine motor skills and would stem constantly. After a failed attempt at preschool we decided to have him evaluated for Autism; and in the mean time, began physical & occupational therapy. Austin started therapy in October 2013 with no words, no receptive language and very little fine motor skills.

Six weeks ago we received Austin's official Autism diagnosis. He has been classified with moderate to severe Autism. While our journey with Autism is just beginning, I feel like it started the day he was born; it was on that day that I knew I would go to the end of the earth to make sure he lived a happy, successful life & that didn't change with any diagnosis.

Austin is now 3 yrs old & on the path to success, a success all of his own. He now has many words, mimics new words daily, counts to 20, follows basic instructions; the list goes on and on. He still faces obstacles & I'm not naive enough to think he won't continue to throughout his life; BUT, we chose to celebrate the boy he is today while working towards an even better tomorrow.

Ashley Wireman
Portsmouth, OH

My life with Autism, Aspergers, and ADHD

Hi. My name is Megan and I have Autism, Aspergers, and ADHD. I was diagnosed with Autism, Aspergers, and ADHD on February 27th 2004 when I was 7 years old. It can be hard at times having Autism, Aspergers, and ADHD but it doesn't stop me from doing what I like to do. Here's what I like to do: Zumba - I'm a licensed Zumba instructor and I want to teach Zumba to others with Autism, Aspergers, and ADHD. I also like to sing. As a matter of fact, I like to sing to every song that comes on the radio. I am also in a choir. Another thing that I like to do is color and play with my little people because it gives me my quiet time in my room. The future for me is unknown and I know that there will be hurdles, but lucky for me I have a really strong support team and I plan on getting over every single hurdle. <3

Megan Wolf
Oakdale, CA

Our Journey Through an Uphill Battle

By the time my son Owen was born, I was so elated and he was so beautiful. We had some issues with jaundice, but after that we assumed "life would continue as normal." Boy were we wrong. Owen didn't sleep at night, and I'm not over exaggerating that point. He only slept in an upright rocking chair being rocked, the second you stopped he was up and screaming again. I knew then something was not quite right. When it came down to food, it was the beginning of battles we still fight. He refused to eat baby food. No matter what it was, he spit it out. One day I was half asleep and accidentally spooned my yogurt into his oatmeal and to my suprise he loved it! That was the easiest thing I have ever gotten him to eat.

Milestones came next and I noticed he wasn't where he should be. He didn't like eye contact and he had an odd way of lining up his toys as that was his way of "playing." He said Dadda, Momma and mimi (sleep). When he got upset he would rock and twitch his fingers. Then one day, he snapped and started banging his head on the tile floor. Two days later his words were gone and the head banging continued. He never slept, actually til he was almost 4 he never slept all night. I begged for him to be evaluated and it took 2 Drs to agree he had PDD-NOS he was 18 months. Everything has been a battle. Talking, potty training, eating, sleeping, angry outbursts,transitions, new or change of plans and everyday life. He is so smart, caring, funny and loving. But those bad days, they can really put you through the ringer.

Tiffany McVay
Clarksville, TN

My two brothers!

My two oldest brothers are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. My oldest brother Thad two years ago was clinically diagnosed with Aspergers a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum. My second oldest brother Kyle when he was 8 years old was diagnosed with autism. I have seen how autism affects lives not only within the family but outside as well. If anyone out there has a family member with autism go give them a hug and tell them how much you love them. To live this life outside of a bubble is a precious gift from God. Thankfully after seeing the reality of autism I hope to bring more awareness to the disorder, because my life is different having experienced first hand the affects of autism.

Tyler turner
Cranford, NJ

To love and be loved in return

Clément is a strapping 12 years old french boy living in England. He was diagnosed with ASD aged one and half years old. Since, with the love and care of special individuals around him he is overcoming his handicap. Clément was non verbal until the age of 8. Uttering only a few words. He is now bilingual french/english and converse and understand in both languages. He still has a long way to go, but his progress are steady and continuous. His kindness to others knows no boundaries. When he smiles he lights up the world. His success was dependent on my ability to understand and communicate with him. So I went to research and learn everything I could about Autism and how to deal with him. I educated myself so in turn I could help him and gather around individuals that I know would assist. The intelligence of people is to first recognise that they do not have the required knowledge and therefore need to go the extra mile to acquire that knowledge. Patience, perseverance, courage, kindness, positiveness are qualities that I needed to develop even further to an extreme to be able to support him.

An autism story is not just about the sufferer but it is also about the people that surrounds him. All the sacrifices made, the tears shed, the relentness are rewarded with a simple smile, a hug, a kiss.

To all the people out there, caring and loving a person with autism, do not give up. You cannot afford to give up. You must carry on and just as I am you will find yourself eventually in a good place where the love that you have for one another will be all that prevails and will conquer mountains.

I am able and willing to help anyone that have the need for it. Whether for advice or simply a shoulder to cry on.

But you must believe and have hope, as without hope and belief there is no salvation.

Many thanks for reading our story.

London, United Kingdom
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