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Autism awareness month:putting puzzle pieces together

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Frank Dailey
We were stationed in England the first time we heard the word autism associated with our son. 

Of course, we thought of the young child detached from the world, rocking back and forth. The characteristics we thought were associated with autism was emotionless detachment. 

Our son was far from that.

It wasn’t until we continued to have problems at our next assignment, we learned that autism has a broad spectrum of characteristics from the severe detached and isolated behavior to extremely verbal and hypersensitive characteristics.

Those who receive an autistic diagnosis are as different as the colors of the rainbow. It is for that reason the autism awareness symbol is different colored puzzle pieces. Each one is different and it takes time to put the pieces together.

For my family, the first step was accepting that our son was not just a hyperactive or a difficult child. Realizing that our son’s difficulty was not a reflection on our parenting or a failure on our part, things finally started to get better.

Help came in the form of educators, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and support from parents of other children in the same situation. From them we were finally able to see the colors of the rainbow.

Before long we were putting together the pieces of my son’s puzzle; he had Aspergers Syndrome, a hypersensitivity to noise, touch and stress. It wasn’t the actual event that stressed him out but the anticipation of an event that would cause crippling anxiety.

With the help of our psychiatrist, we were able to work on our son’s problems by conditioning him to read people’s non-verbal communications.

Last year, the stress of middle school became so bad we had to do home education with the school system. 

With the help of his current teachers and school leadership, he is back in a regular class and doing great. 

Once all of the people who influenced my son’s life came to understand him better, the pieces of the puzzle became a plan on how to help him reach his potential.

Finally, my wife is my son’s advocate at school, home and especially with me. There hasn’t been a school that my son has been in that didn’t know her. She held her ground and made sure my son got the same education as the others. She ensured that our son’s teachers attended workshops and were educated on the specifics of his difficulties. She set up the house to organize our son and ensured he had all he needed to grow and learn.

Finally, she had the hardest job of all, making sure that I left my stripes at the door and became Dad when dealing with our son. As our son grows, we teach him all that we have learned about the puzzle affecting his life. The more we know, the closer to the mainstream he comes. This year, he is an A/B student and has social interaction with the other kids. Last weekend he competed in a chess tournament, and won second place for his age class. The puzzle is coming together and it’s a beautiful life.