lex is my twenty-one year old son who, at the age of three, was diagnosed with autism. My husband and I suspected something was very different about our son, but never in our wildest dreams did we suspect autism. Alex apparently began to withdraw from the world around him at about the age of eighteen months. We gradually noticed that he had grown silent and had replaced words with various noises and gestures to communicate his needs.
Alex became extremely hyperactive. He was not able to focus on one task for any reasonable period of time. He began to spin toys and developed inappropriate laughter.
In my mind, he resembled the children with Autism that I had worked with many years before as practical classroom experience as part of my Special Education degree program. But my heart kept denying the truth. I should have picked up on these symptoms right away. After all, I have a degree in Special Education, and had worked with children with Autism long before Alex was born. During the time when Alex was beginning to change, my dear father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And my preoccupation shifted between Alex’s new behaviors, and the reality of losing my father.
My heart kept screaming the answer
had mentioned our concerns about Alex’s behavior to our family doctor on several occasions, but his response was that Alex was sensing my anxiety over the pending loss of my father and reacting to this by withdrawing from the family. The doctor also suggested that we wait until my father had passed for things to normalize with Alex, but my heart kept screaming the answer. Deep down inside I knew the truth about Alex.
Every time Alex exhibited an unusual behavior, I would panic and think of how much he reminded me of the children with Autism I used to work with. I would wake up in the middle of the night to try to find the answers by reading through my old college child behavior books. And inevitably, every time I looked at the behaviors common to autism it was like looking at a picture of Alex right next to each behavior. I would put away the books, hide them as if this would take this awful thought out of my mind, and then tried to resume my normal routine.
We got our bill and then got dismissed
fter the death of my father, I insisted on getting a referral from our family doctor to see a developmental specialist. This specialist diagnosed Alex with autism. Her prognosis was grim, she told us that Alex will probably never speak, and that he would need constant supervision for the rest of his life. She went on to say that he would not be capable of showing emotions, or even acknowledging other people around him. The receptionist gave us our bill, and sent us home. The process seemed so simple, yet so painful. It changed our lives forever.
Within a week of Alex’s diagnosis we relocated to Austin, Texas due to my husband’s job, and a new journey began. I literally overwhelmed myself with books about autism but found no answers in those books. I contacted several agencies that dealt with the special needs population, only to get more books. We sought second opinions, attended seminars, but the results were the same. We got our bill and were dismissed.
We tried food diets, allergy shots, vitamin therapy, and several different options that promised to help children with autism recover, but the situation worsened. Meanwhile, Alex’s behaviors were escalating in every area. His screaming was almost unbearable. We were unable to take him to restaurants or on social outings because of his outbursts, and sensory needs. It was clear that our world as we knew it before the diagnosis was forever changed. Our little boy was no longer the same little boy we had known, and his lack of verbal communication skills gave way to severe behavior problems that changed the way we lived as a family.
Finally we had to accept that something was terribly different
lex started to attend an early childhood program in Austin. Although not an easy step for us, this was the greatest step towards helping Alex become the precious little boy we have today. At the same time, it meant accepting the fact that something was terribly different about our little one; that he was not like other kids. Alex spent two years in the early childhood program where he was introduced to the principles of structured teaching. Afterwards, both teachers and parents agreed to put him in a regular kindergarten classroom with the help of a personal Special Education aide. Alex did wonderfully in kindergarten, where he continued to be exposed to the principles of structured teaching. And with Special Education support and the interventions used by F.O.C.U.S., Alex successfully graduated to first grade that next year.
Back to Plano then in and out of public school
e moved back to Plano, Texas in 1997 and found a school district that, to a certain degree, met some of Alex’s educational needs. Public school gave Alex a basic foundation in terms of skills, but after many changes in district policies and administration, our family decided to pull Alex out of the public school district, and place him in private school. This, of course, proved to be a challenge in itself, since we could not find a private school in the area that could offer Alex the type of education that he needed:
- The type of education that was relevant, intense, and deliberate.
- One that recognized the difference between independence and institution.
- The type of education committed to teach Alex, with an uncompromising attitude for success.
FOCUS on the Future is born
very private school in the area stated that they could only serve “high functioning students,” It was then that we were led by God, and others to open Focus on the Future Training Center. FOCUS (Fostering Our Children’s Unique Selves) opened its doors in 2006, and in four short years, we are now recognized world-wide for the type of services and successes we offer, and experience with our students with special needs. We have, and continue to be blessed in many ways by the many people that we have had the honor to serve through our school.
At the time of this writing, Alex is 21 years old, and attends Focus on the Future Training Center. We as a family are proud to report that Alex is much improved in nearly every aspect.
- His verbal skills have increased tremendously.
- His independence skills can be matched with any typical teenager.
- His processing skills continue to flourish.
Recently, we have experience what every parent dreams of achieving: Alex is now working out in the community in a private post office service! Our journey has just began…the journey that we have had the honor to travel as Alex’s parents has been one of many challenges, but one that has taught to live, to love, and to learn, To those of you who have the privilege of having children with special needs, welcome to a wonderful journey.
lex is a remarkable young man, who has touched the hearts and souls of those around him, and through his disability, he has offered hope to others. Alex has become more independent in many areas, and his prognosis and future is promising. Alex is still quite young and we realize that he still has a long way to go. His older brother, his father, and I are very encouraged about his future prospect. Alex is doing great, and the most exciting thing about seeing Alex’s progress is the fact that we know that God is not finished with him yet. Inside this young man is a world of knowledge, love and experiences that are emerging and, as a family, we are thankful to God for Alex, and feel privileged to be part of his life.
Welcome to our wonderful world!
y work as an in-home/in-classroom training consultant, speaker, administrator, parent, and writer, affords me the privilege and opportunity to help train many different students, teachers, administrators, and other professionals serving students with special needs all round the world. This privilege has enabled me to connect with parents and educators and to share the proven strategies that I have developed to ensure that our children with special needs live productive, independent lives. During my one-on-one sessions and workshops, I share with parents and teachers some of the strategies and techniques that I have learned from working with my own special needs child, as well as with thousands of God’s other special angels with which I have had the pleasure of working. I am convinced that if these techniques are applied appropriately, they will facilitate your child’s road to independence.