Autism is near and dear to me because I have been learning about and working through the wonder and challenge that is autism for the past twenty years. When my son was first diagnosed at the age of three, I was a New York City Police Officer and had no idea what Autism was or what to do with a child who had Autism. From that day to this, I committed to learning everything that I could about Autism. The first thing I learned is that there was no cure. What do you do when there is no cure? Early on I attended support groups that made me feel like an Autism diagnosis was the end of the world. Needless to say, I stopped attending those groups. Autism made me realize that the only way that my son and I were going to make a difference in each other’s lives was for me to meet him where he was and teach him what I knew. Fortunately, I was able to retire early from the Police Department, which allowed me the opportunity to more fully commit to my son and addressing his needs. I realize that not everyone has that blessing.
The Autism diagnosis initially caused me to have a lot of negative assumptions about my son and the possibilities for his life. In trying to find out all I could about Autism, I was met with feedback from some doctors who did not know or appreciate my tenacity to see this thing through. When my son was three, a neurologist said to me, “all he is going to be, he is right now”. She said that he would never even know that I left a room. Likewise, we participated in a study, and that doctor diagnosed my son with severe autism and recommended that I commit him to a home in the area, serving individuals with autism. There was a waiting list for that home, indicating how many people believed what the studies and doctors had determined about the fate of persons with Autism. I determined at that point that this would not be our fate.
Although, it was not an easy process, my son and I worked hard together. I taught him to read using Hooked On Phonics. I also taught him to write, and use the computer. He received speech and occupational therapies. By the time he started kindergarten he was ready. He excelled at the school he attended, and exceeded the limited expectations that the doctors had for him. These doctors did not realize who my son was and, definitely did not know me. I was not going to let this Autism defeat me, or him. My faith in God kept us moving in positive directions.
Today, my son is on the Autism Spectrum, and diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. He graduated high school with a diploma, not a certificate. He recently graduated from a college program and volunteers at the local library. He loves music, video games, plays the piano by ear, reads music, and loves comedy. He currently is interested in getting a certificate in coding.
As for me, I sit on a panel speaking to and educating police officers about what Autism is and how they can better identify and engage individuals that they might in encounter in the course of their work. All that I learn, I share with others in efforts to educate the communities about what Autism is as well as connect people impacted by Autism to services within their respective communities.
Every business has a beginning, and this is where you talk about yours. People want to know what opportunity you saw or how your passion led to the creation of something new. Talk about your roots–people wanna know you have some.