When you meet someone with autism, you have met one person with autism. There is no cookie cutter for autism. They see and learn things differently than what society considers normal… but haven’t we also learned to think outside the box?

Harper was a very active baby. He was able to pick up his head the day after he was born; he was running at nine months. The ultrasound technician even joked around saying, “In my fifteen years of doing this, this is one of the most active babies I have ever seen. You will have your hands full!” She was right, I have had my hands full, and I certainly wouldn’t change it for anything. I was so excited to see him excel so fast, so it caught me by surprise when he wasn’t speaking as other kids his age. When my son first started showing signs of autism, I didn’t want to admit he may have it. It was still the “A” word to me.  I told myself, “He’s a boy, boys develop slower than girls” and “He will catch on”.

When Harper was going to preschool, there were times I would have to pick him up or he had a bad day. It was hard (Not the school) since Harper would get so frustrated since he couldn’t explain why he was upset. I hated seeing my son get so upset when he couldn’t tell me anything. Finally around two years old, Harper was evaluated by the PALS program at Central Elementary (If you suspect any learning concerns, please reach out to them. I highly recommend them.) and was transferred to an inclusive classroom at Central Elementary to help him learn better. He was given the term Significant Development Delay with Speech and Language Impairment.

In August of 2017, he was diagnosed with autism. He has speech therapy and OT each week, he has an IEP (Individualized Education Program), and we have a routine we follow with him. I no longer see this as the “A” word. I see this as something that is going to help him now and later on in life. He sees the world differently than most do, yet he is so sweet and loving. I have seen him take things apart and put them back together. I have even heard a neighbor tell him he will make a great engineer.

The road hasn’t been easy, but it has become much more manageable. Harper has improved so much with his IEP, PALS, his doctors and speech/OT therapists, and his warrior village. He has taught me so much as well. When he has trouble learning something or gets frustrated, we think outside of the box. This makes it fun and he wants to learn. I am his voice. I am his warrior, and a warrior for those with autism. Having that diagnosis is not the end of the world, it’s the beginning of hope.

Jenn Toney

WGAF Board of Directors

Social Media/Website Committee Chairperson