Editor’s note: According to the Austism Society, the United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. This letter was written by Mary Reisz of Lonoke. We thought it would be appropriate to run her take on autism as it pertains to her family.
1. Psychiatry. a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment:
2.a tendency to view life in terms of one’s own needs and desires.
Autism and Society
My name is Mary. My husband Joe and I are raising my great nephew, Colby, who has autism, his twin sister Cassidy, and his brother Lucas, who is just a year older.
Colby is a great kid. He brings so much joy into our lives, but then, on the other hand, there is sadness, especially when people do not accept him for who he is and for his disability. We include him in everything we do. He goes with us on vacations, (his favorite vacation spot is the beach), he goes to church, school, grocery store, to restaurants and to Walmart. Everywhere we go he goes. We try to get him to cope in society, and I must say he does very well in society. Yes, he has his strange behaviors at times; we deal with them and let him know that is not acceptable. We tell him it is not the time or place for that sort of behavior, and guide him into another direction. I must say he does very well in society. The most sad and troubling thing is we work so hard to get him to deal with society, but some people in society looks down on him, and they look at him as if they are going to catch what he has, or he just disgust them.
It is so easy for people who do not know Colby to say you need to do something with him. What they don’t know is what they are suggesting the things we do; we have already been there and done that. It doesn’t work so we try something else until we find something that does work. It might take a year or more before he fully understands what is or is not acceptable. I will admit that I am not perfect; I have made mistakes as a parent. Who, as a parent, has not made a mistake raising children, so we have to learn from our mistakes and move on to another path.
It is not easy raising a child with autism. I must also say that it is not easy for a child to have autism. So what I am saying is he is coping with society, but society does not want to cope with him, just because he is not normal. I ask you what is normal? What may be normal for one person is not normal for another.
Having autism is normal for Colby. He has always had autism and he always will have autism. Autism is normal for Colby. The biggest problem I have with people who treat someone with autism like that is the ones who will not take the time and sit down and get to know the person with autism. If they would spend just a little time with and get to know that person, they could learn a lot from them. Colby teaches me different things everyday, and I teach Colby things everyday.
Colby’s autism is severe. He is non-verbal, and gets very frustrated that he can’t communicate when he needs to. The best way I have found to teach Colby is to be constant, take one step at a time, and have lots of patients. Colby goes to school at Pathfinder Academy. He has wonderful teachers and therapists (speech and occupational), and there is Mr. Tim (the administrator) — a jewel of all jewels. They all do a wonderful job with Colby. He feels right at home at Pathfinders. Words can not express how much they do for him there. I thank God everyday for Pathfinder Academy.
I always said that God gave Colby autism for a reason and one of these days, God is going to let Colby’s light shine in a way that the world will see that Colby is someone special and he has a purpose on this earth.
Colby, I Love you with all my heart and all my soul. I am so glad God brought you, Lucas, and Cassidy into my life. My life would be empty with out you.