I was introduced to Gavin’s mother, Cindy, through a mutual friend online. She didn’t know me and wasn’t familiar with my work – but because she will do anything to raise awareness for autism – she agreed to let me photograph her son, Gavin. Eye contact is a struggle for many with autism, but when Gavin’s piercing eyes lock in on you – it’s as if you can actually see his mind taking in and computing all the data in the room.
Gavin’s Story, as told by his mother, Cindy:
Gavin is 15 years old, home-schooled, and extremely intelligent. His communication style is unique: he needs to be prompted and struggles to speak but he has so much to say and he does so eloquently by using Rapid Prompting Method letter board or his iPad to speak for him. As his mother, I have said I am the voice for the voiceless, now his voice has been found and it needs to be heard!
Gavin is a true inspiration to all those that know him. He’s genuine, loving, honest, sweet and hopeful. He has a great sense of humor. He is unique in character and personality.
He truly lets his light shine and brings smiles to faces when he and his faithful autism service dog Rusty enters a room. Rusty is Gavin’s trusty side kick. Gavin spells: “Rusty gives me courage. Rusty gives me freedom. Rusty makes me brave. My world opened up when I got Rusty. Rusty, thank you for being the best dog in the universe.” Having Rusty has allowed our family to be able to go place safely without Gavin being over stimulated. We are truly thankful to have Rusty in our life.
Gavin has taught us to love and look at life with a deeper meaning. He will not let autism hold him back from anything. He spells: “Autism is the most frustrating thing sometimes. Having autism is like having fog in my brain.” He is amazingly smart and God has blessed him to use his weaknesses to be his greatest strengths. He spells: “I want to be a public speaker and write a book.” He has a tremendous love for family and friends. He spells: “Mom I am so thankful for you and dad. I am also thankful that I have such great siblings.” He has a positive outlook on life and loves to share God’s love. He spells: “God has blessed my life in so many ways. He always takes care of me. He always helps me see good in situations others can’t see. I know He is always here for me.” We need to believe in what God can do through these amazing individuals, they are valuable to society.
I admire him so much for all he has been through so far in life and yet he has such a positive attitude on everything. He looks at the world and people in a wonderful way. He spells: “Autism is real people with real brains. Each person must find his own way in life.” He just wants to be like everyone else and enjoy life to the fullest. Gavin looks forward to spending time with friends by going to Gentle Worship each month and other ASP club awesome events. Gavin spells: “Gentle Worship means God is with me and loves me. The greatest gift is love. I love Jesus. A friend always aims for love and support. Aim for love every day, aim for peace. ”
There are too many labels and disabilities in the world today that often makes the individual with the label feel less than that they truly are. Instead of labeling why don’t we say ALL are differently abled. Autism Spectrum Disorder does not mean an end all to the child you had hoped for. With faith, hope, patience, understanding, love and acceptance anyone can meet their full potential. Don’t let a diagnosis get you down, great gains can be made in life and the possibilities are endless for them to succeed. Our children are truly a gift to be cherished. There is so much HOPE out there! They work so hard to overcome many obstacles. Take their strengths and run with them, give them the positive feed back we all long for. Celebrate all victories no matter how big or small. We just need to keep pushing through the rough times and know you are never alone. God gave us all very special gifts and talents and we must not let them go to waste. Be grateful! Gavin spells: “We should be faithful to God and He will do amazing accomplishments in our life.”
In the past, Gavin’s autism made it hard for him to share his abilities with us. He was diagnosed at the age of 3 and as his mother, it became my passion to do all I could for him and others with special needs. God does not make mistakes- these children are all here for a reason. We learn from them way more than they learn from us. One of our first steps was adjusting Gavin’s diet. Having Gavin on the Gluten Free, Casein Free, low sugar diet clearly helps many of us function better in life. Good quality supplements have helped him and are so important to take each day. Many of us have sensory issues and also are very hyper and are in a constant fight or flight mode. It is important to find ways to calm and slow the body down. Treatments and therapies like chiropractic, craniosacral, acupuncture and using essential oils all can help balance the body and relieve anxiety.
When Gavin was young we had ABA in home therapy and he was in speech, OT and many other therapies and Biomedical treatments through the Defeat Autism Now protocol. Many of these kiddos are very sick inside. Gavin had a bloated belly, red cheeks and ears, and constant diarrhea or constipation. One day you had a bright eyed little toddler, saying words, happy and hugging you and the next day you have no eye contact, a blank stare, fits of rage, moaning in pain. Where did my child go? He was in his own little world back then. A parent feels helpless and at a loss as to what to do next. That’s when I started a support group called Autism Solutions in 2005. In 2013, I co-founded Autism Solution Pieces, of which Gavin is an ambassador for. Parents need to know that help is out there, a phone call, a text, an email away for an ear to listen, a heart to love and give resources and knowledge to share. There is no magic pill or therapy or treatment that cures our kids. However, there are many things that make it manageable. There are individuals that were very severe as young children and as young adults are hard to pick out of a crowd. Face it we all have issues, no one is normal, what is normal? Who wants to be ordinary when you can be extraordinary! Life is what we make it. Choose a happy, joyful, fun-filled adventure, surrounded by loving family and friends. God truly bless us with awesome gifts. Use them to share love, peace and kindness!
Cindy, mother of Gavin
Below are some links to the organizations mentioned.
The Stories of Autism 2014 gallery will go live on Sunday, April 14th.