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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

Autistic and Proud

Last year (at 38),I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Until then I had lived in the dark. I've always believed that I was different and felt as though people didn't completely understand me. Things were difficult, but after the diagnosis, I look back at what I've accomplished with more pride than ever. In my situation, Autism actually does have benefits.

Autism provided the obsessive drive that has allowed me to achieve nearly every goal I've ever set. When I was 12 years old, my goal in life was to manage the operation of an amusement park in Los Angeles. At 17, I started as a Ride Operator and fought my way up; every year moving closer to my dream. The Aspergian's unyielding determination helped me achieve my goal eventually managing the Operations Division, (pretty good for someone who is anti-social, anti-crowds, anti-noise...). The park helped me learn coping skills that I use on a daily basis. I can put on a face and mimic like a champ! When needed, I can turn on my social side, although I still loathe social events. Case in point: I tried to ditch out on a Christmas party where I was to be driven in a limo and receive a plaque for Operations Employee of the Year... hehe! Immersion into the uncomfortable can be beneficial. Years ago, I left Six Flags; Autism is my obsession now.

I wish that I would have been diagnosed earlier in life. Post-diagnosis has been eye opening. Now, my life makes sense. Granted, Autism is not easy and it has certainly helped push me to the edge time and time again, but now that I finally know, I'm better prepared. I discover new tendencies that we Aspies have on a daily basis and adjust accordingly. Awareness is life changing. I realize that crowds, noise, chaos, social events are not my style. However, I still view it as a gift in my case. I feel for people who struggle with it, but as for me, I don't want to be cured. I don't need a cure. I'm Autistic and proud.

Scott Gudmundson
Johnstown, CO

Huntin For A Cure For Hunter

Mama the words I have yet to hear from my 2 1/2 year old little boy Hunter! We always knew he was special from the day we brought him home from the hospital. Hunter never met any of his milestones on time he never really cooed or babbled as a baby. My husband and I knew that something wasn't right so started talking with his Dr and had Hunter tested for autism he was officially diagnosed June 2014! Hunter is slowly progressing and smiles and laughs all the time he loves mickey mouse climbing on everything! we would not change Hunter for the world because he is our special boy that didn't grow in my tummy but grew in my heart!!

Hunter's mommy

columbus, OH

Damon's Story

I had my little boy on May 19th of 2005. He was a cute little thing everything was alright after I had him. He made all the makers that a child should make. He was walking and talking around 2 years of age. I honestly didn't think anything was wrong with him until he started school. In kindergarten that's when the teacher said she was having trouble understanding my son. That he would want to be by himself, that he would talk out in class and disrupt what the teacher was teaching and that he was having trouble making friends with others. After almost a year of receiving calls from the school about his behavior it was decided that he be tested for autism and that when we found out that my little boy had autism. Although after that everything changed for the better we where able to send him to school without receiving calls every day saying your son had done this or that. That he was getting the help he needed was a weight off of me, because for the longest time I really didn't know what was wrong with my boy. Now almost three years later he is almost able to be in a classroom setting and not get into trouble. He still needs the help with a few things but he is somewhat able to understand how to act in a social setting and what he needs to do to stay on task. I know that some people have this harder then me but am honestly great full for the help he has received in the last three years and I hope that he will continue to improve. Thank you for reading my son's story. And I hope that it will inspire you not to give up hope.

Cindy Cummings
Houston, TX
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