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Such A Long Journey In Such A Short Time

This handsome little man is John. He has such an amazing journey so far and he is only 3. Everyone kept telling us that there was something wrong with him pretty much from the start. He was always such a quiet baby. He hardly ever cried but he loved to smile and laugh. He seemed fine to us, he was our perfect little man. When he was about a month old he ended up with a large abscess on the back of his head that seemed to appear overnight. Little did we know that was just the beginning. We also had to fight aspiration, skin problems (that alone was a nightmare in itself), steroids to treat his skin, food allergies, asthma, and a few hospitalizations along the way.

By the time he was 9 months old his doctors became concerned about his development. He was not trying to crawl like other kids his age or talking yet. He didn't start crawling until he was 15 months old and around 16 months when he finally started to walk. Again, he still was not talking. He also preferred to play alone and didn't want to play with toys much. If we tried to show him something he would have a meltdown and couldn't keep focused.

Right before he turned 2 we put him into the Early Intervention program. He received speech, development, and occupational therapy. When he turned 3 he was placed into a Early Childhood preschool program at a local school for kids with special needs after finally being diagnosed with autism. I was so skeptical at first but we are so happy with the progress he has made.

He has gone from being non-verbal and having meltdowns all the time to talking and forming sentences. The first time he formed a sentence I wanted to cry. He now plays with other kids and talks. He is still behind for his age but he has come so far from where he started and we can't wait to see where he goes from here. He has changed our lives for the better.

Jamie Edie
Springfield, IL

We are all the same!

Meet Dryw, he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at the age of six at the age of six. Before his diagnosis we were told often by doctors that he was just spoiled. Then it happened. As we were driving down the road he tried to jump in the vehicle because it was time for his favorite television show. We had told the doctor that he would often have fits and almost hang himself in his car seat when we travel different paths to familiar places. Almost jumping out of the car got us the attention we needed from the doctors. This was only one of the battles we had to fight as we ventured to get through the help she needed. He often had to deal with tormenting comments from school bullies. He realized he was different from the other kids. His differences made him who he is an awesome young man. Although Dryw was not valedictorian this year he wrote his own speech for graduation.

He wrote: "Although I am not an athlete like Matthew Crawford, Ben Lentz or Jeff Schlicker or smart like Artie Patel or Chloe King or both like Seth Malcolm, in elementary school we were all of the kids that didn't know our ABC's number 123's. Sure some of us were what you would call smart but we were all the same. Are all the same from start to finish. So going Maybel me as a nobody, loser or an idiot. We made great friends and lost some on the way. That changed us, That made us who we are, we are all the class of 2014. So if you call me those you are calling yourself those names. Because in the end we all the same we are the class of 2014."

Amazingly true!

Patricia Lee
Standish, MI

My Story in a Nutshell

I knew something wasnt right from birth with my first son, he would cry all the time and He wouldnt look at me. his dad was in the military so i had no relief and my world was crashing. we tried all kinds of testing and at 16 months old, he was diagnosed with Autism.

With how proactive i was for my baby i documented everything on video (tantrums, stimming, etc) and now our county uses that footage including Syracuse University to show teachers and to teach what to look for in early signs of autism.

As a first time mother the diagnoses was a blessing for me, I wasnt crazy and imagining this stuff.

I knew where we stood and now what can i do about it was the attitude i had.

my son started to talk with extensive therapy at the age of 4 and we have slowly progressed since. He is now 8 years and i run a very firm tight schedule with him with very little down time: I am so proud of all his progress and have never met anyone in my life that has worked as hard as he does.


If we dont advocate and speak for our children, no one will

They are only as successful as we push them to be.


Danielle Lambert
jamesville, NY

My unexpected present

The doctors said "you don't produce eggs"; yet 7 or 8 years later, I defied those odds. My son was born and I was happier than ever. I did realize early on that something was off. He rarely looked at me, would not respond to me calling his name, never spoke a word, and only seemed to have an interest in one thing electronic devices. On my 18 mo visit his pediatrician asked me, has he called you mommy yet, to which I cried no...she referred me to Baltimore Infant and Toddler Program.

Connor went through several therapist; however, 2 of which I will hold forever in my heart as I think they were instrumental in preparing him and me for the next couple of years. At 3 I chose to put Connor in the public school system to work with teachers as opposed to home therapy.

In a couple of months Connor will be 5.

He started shcool at 3 and within 4 months he said his first words EVER. Most can barely believe my story to be true but he spoke for the first time on Christmas Eve at his grandparents dinner table. He was counting to 10 on his fingers aloud. I knew he learned this at school. While I did my best to teach him at home, this was someone else work. I am so thankful, my son has been surrounded by wonderful individuals who accept and love him for who he is.

To date Connor can speak very well, he still has some issues however they will be better with time. He can read bedtime stories to me, play sports, play with children, and with the aid of all of his wonderful teachers has a love for learning.

Melissa Greenstreet
Baltimore, MD

How Sammy found his happy.

Autism has been part of our family for more than 15 years. In the begining it was really, really hard. But, I would not ever trade any of those difficult moments. It is what has made our family resilient. Our son Sammy taught us that autism was a blessing in disguise.

On June 3, 2014 our son, Sammy graduated from Huntington Park High School as class Valedictorian. I'd like to share an except of my son's Valedictorian speech..

...John Lennon once said, "When I was 5 years old my mother always told me that hapiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy". They told me I didn't understand the assisgnment, I told them they didn't understand life."

Well, when I was 3 1/2 years old I was diagnosed with autism. My parents were told that I would never be a typical adult and would most likely need to one day be institutionalized. You know what, they were right. I am not typical, but being autistic has not hindered me. In fact my autism is what makes ME stronger. I have had to battle to learn what comes natural to most people. Of all the challenges that I have had to conquer, learning how to communicate with others was the most difficult one. I struggled with my own body to give voice to my thoughts, feelings and opinions. It took me 7 years to be able to say "I love you" to my own mom. And let me tell you, it was worth it to see the huge smile on her face. Finding my voice is what helped me knock on the door of my happy. But, proving to myself that the label of autism that I was given does not define me but that my actions do. That is what finally opened the door to my "happy".

May all the children like our 2 boys that are on the autism spectrum open the door to their "happy" as well.

Cristina Basurto
Huntington Park, CA

Geoff's Independence

I met Geoff at Rosie’s Cantina (his favorite restaurant) on a sunny winter afternoon. He introduced himself and told me about his love of foxes. When asked what he thought of the popular Ylvis song, “What does the Fox say?,” he rolled his eyes dramatically. He did not seem as in love with the tune as my class of 5 year olds. It appeared that he may even have found the song degrading to his beloved collection of foxes. I immediately decided that I liked his sense of humor.

David Stidger, Job Coach and Owner of Open Door, explained his mentor relationship with Geoff: “When I met him, he was in a rut I guess… ‘Wouldn’t you say?’ he asked, turning to Geoff for permission to broadcast this information, “Now he has his own apartment, pays his bills, and has been working at Clementine’s for over a year-­‐ right? It’s been a year, right Geoff?” David loves to brag about Geoff, and it is very endearing. Geoff beams at David’s praise and downplays the compliments by acknowledging his struggles.

The essence of Geoff’s story lies in the way he has not only managed to successfully find a career and an apartment, but further how he has managed to maintain this lifestyle for an extended period of time, an equally huge accomplishment. When I asked Geoff if he has any advice for other adults on the spectrum who are struggling to find a job or become more independent, he responded with a big smile, saying “Hire David!” Geoff very graciously offers the credit for his success to Job Coaching through Open Door, and acknowledges that it was a turning point in his life.

I think we all agree that Geoff deserves the greatest accolades for his success in living independently despite the challenges of his diagnosis. I don’t know if anyone knows what the “fox says”, but I do know what Geoff’s beloved collection of orange fur on top of his dresser conveys to him every night when he returns from work, “We’re proud of you“.

David Stidger
Huntsville, AL

Like mother, like son, like son.

As a child I struggled in an undefinable way that baffled Psychologists in the 90's. I was misdiagnosed with Bipolar and ADHD among other things, but the interventions never helped me and usually made my problems worse. I felt unwillingly set apart from others. When we had our first child my husband and I watched helpless as our son struggled in this same undefinable way, as friends and parents of his classmates began to distance themselves from the destructive child and his weird mom (we heard parenting issues and were given advice whether we wanted it or not every other day it seemed). I first heard the term Aspergers/Autism last year when, after once again losing a job due to miscommunication, I went in search for answers and when I looked it up it was one of those defining life moments one never forgets. Suddenly my entire life came together under this new-found concept. Since then my two sons and I have been diagnosed with Aspergers and HFA and the validation it brings to everything we've struggled with has been akin to the weight of the world being lifted from our shoulders. My sons are in day treatment programs and counseling, I'm in counseling and have learned so much about myself and how to help myself and my sons since our diagnoses. I haven't found a job yet but I'm hopeful and whatever the future holds for us I wouldn't take the cure for Autism should one ever be made. I finally love and accept myself for who I am despite my limitations and I understand my children on a level no one else can. The diagnosis of Autism hasn't limited my children and I, it's opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.

Las Vegas, NV

The Sky Is The Limit

My son, Jaiden, amazes me every day. His loving, fun, artistic personality. His strides. His talents...he makes me laugh and feel alive like no one else can.

My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder before he was even two years old. After he was evaluated, he started receiving therapy, Developmental and Occupational, 3x a week through Early Intervention. Despite the feelings of anxiety, anger, confusion and skepticism at first, I'm glad I made the decision. I realized it wouldn't hurt him, only benefit him. And it really did.

Now, he's in an Early Childhood Education program and receives Speech Therapy and sessions with a Special Education teacher. It's going well, but I've made the decision to start him in a new school that has inclusion classrooms, so that he can get more of the attention he needs. I'm nervous about it, hearing so many stories about children with Autism being labeled as "bad" or being mistreated or neglected by the school system because of their lack of knowledge. But I continue to pray and I know that regardless, my son will be ok. He has a family that loves him to pieces. And he will always be reminded that the sky is the only limit.

Shekira Farrell
Asbury Park, NJ

Embracing the Positive Characteristics

Since I was a young child, I had high goals and hopes for the future, but had a very difficult time getting along with my peers. My influences growing up had little knowledge of Asperger's Disorder and often didn't know how to figure out my emotional management issues as well as trouble making friends. As a child, I worked well one on one with adults and good working one on one with younger children from the time I was a teenager, but had some very difficult times in group settings with my peers.

My academic and intellectual abilities were always on or above target, and mathematics was my best academic skill, and my hobbies were playing piano by ear and musical theatre and performing arts when I was a teenager. I love to act in both stage plays and musicals when I'm not at work or school.

I was recently just diagnosed at 26 with a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and it helps to understand some of my behaviors as well as why I had problems relating to others growing up.

I'm planning on being a teacher for middle school mathematics, and I love working with kids at summer camp and volunteer projects more than anything else I've enjoyed doing in my life. My youthful, friendly, and energetic personality which is partly due to Asperger's is a positive quality that makes me a fun companion for children, and do my best to work on the not so positive issues dealing with Asperger's so I can honestly claim myself to be a positive role model for the young people whose lives I influence.

I live in Charleston, SC, I work 3rd shift and I am finishing up college in hope to get a job teaching either 7th or 8th grade mathematics, and I am looking forward to my experience of once again being a camp counselor for a week in Texas this summer. I have found a lot of resources and social connections online where I was able to get advice from others relating to Autism.

Mount Pleasant, SC

Amari's Journey

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FYtLSp5E40w attached is the link to our autism story. I wanted to give back to a community that has been so welcoming and loving. I just want other families to know they are not alone and that we are all in this together!

Jenna Smith
Phoenix, AZ
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