His eyes are dark orbs that miss nothing. Bright and shiny. Intelligent. His skin is clear, with a mop of sandy blonde hair on top of his head. He is thin but not as thin as he once was. His fingernails are bitten to the quick, but they have stopped bleeding.
When Brandon talks to other kids, he is animated and has proven to be a leader, able to listen as well as speak. You’d never know that two years ago.
Back then, his black eyes shone in fear and he raged under his desk in public school, often bashing his head into the floor as he screamed and rocked.
With hard work, students with autism can learn to socialize and lead normal lives.
Brandon is on the spectrum. He is autistic. He is also one of the smartest students I have ever dealt with.
When he came to us, he was locked up tight. Exzema riddled his cheeks, and he looked like a refugee; he was that skinny. His fingernails bled from being bitten, and if he didn’t get his way, he would throw his head back and scream. Socialization? Forget about it. He wasn’t interested in a thing anyone else, child or adult had to say.
Transitions were especially tough for Brandon. He would fall to the floor and have a total fit if he was locked in on an activity. There was nothing you could do to sway him to stop, much less, do what was being asked of him.
He was like a caged animal.
I watch him now, and I can’t believe he is the same person, that in two short years he can now follow directions, socialize, and interact with peers. He listens intently to teachers and other students. He is happy, well adjusted. He is normal.
Sometimes, my job is so cool, I can’t take it. That I had something to do with the transformation of a child like this lets me know I’m doing something good. But behind every kid like this is a parent who is willing to go the long haul, to not rest until they find help for their child.
Parents who will spend money on their child, peel themselves away from their child and leave in a knot of worry, trusting us. Trusting someone else to help, because the divorce rate is high for parents of autistic children, and no matter what, they feel alone in this sea of misinformation and weariness.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a parent of a child with autism, but I know the ones who never rest, who go to all extremes to get help for their children, the ones who sit up until midnight researching, the ones who drive hours every day to get help for their children…they are heroes and brave and will get the results necessary to help end this epidemic.
This is the start of that journey. I’ll start with Brandon’s first baby step into our facility and chronicle what we did with him, what worked and what didn’t.
You’ll see through Brandon’s eyes, the fear, the pain, the mistrust. You’ll know what it’s like from his parent’s point of view. The worry. The pain. The anger and mistrust.
But, know this. It is a journey, and every journey must start with that first baby step. Brandon took those steps, and now he is like any other eighth grade boy. Normal and happy. He has a gross sense of humor and loves memes. And screen time…they all seem to love screen time. He snorts in laughter instead of raging in pain. He plays pranks and does assignments, although at times he questions why.
We all should be allowed to question why.