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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

An SLP and Autistic Son’s Success Story – by Terri

What makes my clinical experience unique is that I also have over 30 years of personal experience with my own 31 year old son who is autistic, Anthony. He has successfully developed his social interactive skills to gain employment at Russel Orchards farm store, at a golf course, and presently at a framing store in our town, Wyckoff, NJ. He can now read, write, balance his checkbook, make his own meals, do his own laundry, mow the lawn, plant flowers, and help clean and organize our house. He bowls on a league, and takes guitar lessons weekly and can hold a conversation about subjects that he enjoys, especially about our family travels. He fixed the electronic ignition on our grill which had fallen into its housing and I still don’t know how he did it!

Is he still Autistic, yes, because he continues to jump up and down when excited , whisper to himself, gets upset if his routine has to change, “talks” to his hand, cannot drive, and will never be able to live on his own. He is vulnerable to people who would abuse him, because he is so trusting and would never think that anyone would cause him or his family harm. I would like him to participate in more recreational activities and make some more friends. How did a boy who was echolalic and whispered scripts from conversations from years ago that he found funny, or was distracted by the sound of rain on the roof which nobody else could hear become so accomplished?

31 years ago nobody had heard of Autism. People thought he was “artistic” when I told them why he wasn’t answering their questions. I knew about Autism from one paragraph in my textbook Communication Development and Disorders- part of my coursework as I studied to become a Speech Therapist before my son was born. I also worked with an 8 year old boy in my clinical practicum who displayed Autistic tendencies. So I knew about “normal” speech and language development, how to reduce the echolalia, used sign language and gestures to accompany speech to learn how to use personal and relative pronouns, etc.

I also treated him as normally as possible, i.e.,used the word “no”when he did something wrong and removed him from things he wanted to do if he did not behave appropriately, and telling him why his actions were not appropriate. We taught him life skills so he could be as independent as possible and gave him life rules to live by especially the “golden rule”. We also tried the latest treatments- a healthy diet free of sugar and preservatives, mega-vitamins, chelation therapy,auditory integrative training for his acute sense of hearing, shots of medication to reduce gastrointestinal distress from constipation, ritalin to help him focus on his schoolwork, prosac to reduce anxiety(Both were quickly removed from the equation since they only made him weepy). Some very good special education teachers were also helpful, but some were not so helpful because they were ignorant about the symptoms of autism. Some helped him too much, by babying him -with low expectations of his abilities.

Maybe the combination of all of these therapies and the love of his family and our high expectations and the peer role models of his 2 younger sisters helped him to become as accomplished as he is today. There was no ABA or OT in the schools at the time. I would like to receive your newsletter and join your organization to hear of new programs or success stories so that my son might join the recreational, educational,and vocational resources, you may advertise. I would like to participate in your fund-raising activities, because I, too, am hoping to see a cure in my son’s and my lifetime (or at least a way to manage the difficulties that prevent many individuals with autism from a happy and productive life)

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