Travis entered Pre School at 4 years old. We never suspected anything. He was a happy boy and played by himself a lot. But half way through the school year, his teacher pulled us aside a told us all the things he would never do. She claimed that he would need meds just to function in society. For kindergarten, we put Travis in a different school. He was starting to notice that people looked at him differently and you could tell it hurt his feelings. Before the first quarter was up, his teacher had taken a proactive stance to start testing him. She was determined that if we got him diagnosed, he could develop the skills to be a strong and bright boy. We spent the next year battling our insurance company, hospitals and the state. By first grade, he was officially diagnosed as high functioning autistic with symptomolgy of hyper activity. Our doctor at Phoenix Children’s said he had a genius level IQ and to never stop pushing him. But my husband and I had no idea what it really meant to be autistic. We began to educate ourselves. We found helpful information through SARRC and Autism Speaks. And we were shocked at the growing number of children affected in our country. We saw kids in our son's school that struggled because their parents refused to identify the issues and become more aware. And Travis hasn't had it easy either. He works very hard to keep up with him class and to focus. What may be a simple 30min homework assignment for one student can easily take an hour for him. But he's fought very hard. At the time he was diagnosed, he made little to no eye contact. He also spoke one to three words to communicate. He didn't interact with other children. Loud sounds would cause him to panic and run away. He would also clap his hands and rock or jump up and down a lot when we were in heavily populated areas. It was emotionally draining on all of us. But we all began to learn the skills. It wasn't just about him; it was also about us, the people who interacted with him. We learned how his brain processed things. Loud sounds caused fear. Big crowds caused him to feel overwhelmed. When there was too much to process, he couldn't hold still. We all began to learn how to communicate through these situations. If something is loud, cover your ears. Too many people? Maybe there's another way we can get through this store. The biggest part was getting Travis to tell us what he thought about things. Homework would stress him out. So we found different way to do it. For an entire year, we kept a dry erase board in our house and did math with all kinds of colors. We used blocks for addition and subtraction so he could touch every one. What we figured out was that autism didn't mean slow or handicapped. Travis processed thoughts and information just like everyone else. We just had to come up with a different way to explain it.
It has not been easy and every year brings different challenges. But we have built a foundation of confidence and awareness. Nothing is too difficult. You just need to find a different route sometimes. I am so honored to say that my 10 year old son is in 4th grade and he is autistic. But he's not just autistic. He is a fully functioning student on honor roll. He has friends (and some girlfriends) that he hangs out with regularly. He is active in his church and Sunday school. He is a computer tech. He is a writer of the most creative stories. And he builds ships with legos. He also loves sitting down at the dinner table and talking with his family.
Everything about him is perfect, autism and all. I think I speak for myself, our family and the amazing teachers at Imagine Charter School of East Mesa when I say he's amazing just as he is and we love the fact that he autistic.
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