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    Posted April 18, 2014 by
    Key Biscayne, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Communicating through autism

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    Autism is just a Road Block

    My name is Sybil Pulver and I have a 56 year-old son, Marc, who was born a blue baby. He had some severe developmental problems, and at age five exhibited little in the way of normal communication. My husband and I decided to take him to Johns Hopkins for a neurological evaluation. We were told to institutionalize him because he stood little chance of ever being able to succeed living in a “normal” environment. I refused to believe the doctors and devoted the next fifty years of my life to prove them wrong. I am pleased to say that I did just that. But I can tell you it was not easy.
    I discovered the Institutes for Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia where they prescribed a grueling program of physical therapy for Marc. Although it took time, Marc showed remarkable improvement and I was able to start him on an educational adventure that led to his graduation from a public high school in Coral Gables, Florida. The adventure was fraught with more failures than successes; but the key to the successes was first and foremost – patience. Trying to communicate with Marc was my biggest challenge.
    Sometimes my frustration got the better of me and I just yelled. I learned quickly that didn’t work. He simply shut down and ignored me. I got the same reaction if I talked too fast. So I quickly learned to control my speed and sound level. The same reaction occurred with the use of threats. Although it took me a while to learn, I found that requiring tasks that I thought were within Marc’s capabilities, but apparently were not, also led to all systems shutting down. Generally speaking, I found that trying to learn his limits, patience, and most importantly repetition were the keys to communicating successfully with Marc in trying to teach him and helping him adjust to family life.
    But that is not the end of the story. During his schooling experience Marc was able to develop average skills in reading and writing, the ability to drive a car, and a remarkable ability to remember and recall whatever he saw and heard: like television shows and movies he watched, athletic events he attended or stories he was told. However, his poor social skills, problem-solving capability, and facility for communicating effectively prevented Marc from succeeding in the world of work.
    As time passed, Marc began to develop deep feelings of inadequacy. He was already fifty-three and knew he was always different but he did not understand why. For me the answer was oxygen deprivation at birth because he was a blue baby. I never really thought there could be any other reason. As Marc began to become more and more depressed, I decided to have him tested to see if there could be another answer. I had him tested by two different groups of psychologists and their conclusion was that Marc was on the spectrum.
    Amazingly, this knowledge seemed to change Marc’s approach to life overnight. I then took a much deeper interest in autism found a book about the life of Temple Grandin. I gave it to Marc and told him it was written by a lady with autism. When he finished the book he said, “You know, Mom, if she is autistic and could write a book, I want to write a book about my life.” With the help of a co-author, Marc published his own story Living Life with Autism: The World Through My Eyes. Since the publication of the book Marc has become a different person. He is anxious to tell his story to an audience and has had numerous opportunities to speak to a variety of audiences. His dream now is to help others who live their lives on the spectrum, and most recently has joined as a volunteer with Special Olympics.
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