At times, photographing children on the autism spectrum can pose unique challenges. Andy was different, though. It was a challenge for him because he wanted to understand how the camera worked. It makes me wonder what images and stories he might document, or pieces of art he may create…
Andy’s Story, as told by his mother, Peggy:
“One day there was the best thing ever. This lady more or less trained my brain so I can spell my thoughts. She is my hero.”
These are Andy’s words that he spelled out in a Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) session last fall.
We are no stranger to autism in this family. My oldest son was diagnosed at age 5. Concerns with Andy started at 16 months. While we have been down this road before, it was a different ballgame this time having to find new doctors. Andy was diagnosed at 2 ½ years old. About 18 months later he started his in home ABA. At 3 he was in the school district special ed preschool program.
Andy speaks few words verbally. His facial expressions, however paint a clear picture of his thoughts and emotions. Andy is the child that would say exactly what’s on his mind to anyone. When Gretchen was here he came right to her and was practically begging her to take pictures of him. When she was taking pictures of Eric his beautiful little face popped right in. Of course, coming with cameras and laptops is always going to get his attention! Andy’s desire to interact with others and communicate is very strong. When he was 5 years old his dad passed away from cancer. Just 22 months later his baby brother Jonathan died unexpectedly. While he was young he understood what was going on and was affected by this loss. It broke my heart that his brain would not allow him to express his feelings and get it all out in an effective manner.
Through this many wonderful people have come into our lives. Friends from Autism Solutions Pieces helped us through this difficult time and welcomed us to their family. They provided activities and socialization for Andy, Eric and I and introduced us to therapies that have opened the door to communication for Andy. Jackie from RPM+ for Autism and Other Disabilities and Rapid Prompting Method has been life changing for Andy and our family. He can now better communicate his feelings and needs. He says what wants and doesn’t hold back. He can talk about his dad and brother. He often says he wants to make friends in school. How I want this to be easier for him! His love for others is so abundant and his understanding of life is beyond what I can comprehend.
Andy is now in 2nd grade and is progressing well. He is saying more words verbally, such as requesting food. We are planning Eric and Andy’s baptism. Before Gentle Worship, church was not remotely possible. He is on a Challenger baseball league and participates in Special Olympics track and bowling, all of which he loves. He enjoys playing on the computer and iPad and knows more about them than me! Andy has come so far with the support and efforts of many teachers, therapists, family, wonderful friends, and of course, Andy. There is still work to be done but the possibilities for Andy are endless. I am going to end this with Andy’s thoughts on autism as spelled in an RPM session. My first thoughts after seeing and hearing this for the first time is how an 8 year old come does up with this?
“This life is nothing but a dry run for Heaven.”
Peggy, mother of Andy
Be sure to read Andy’s brother, Eric’s Stories of Autism piece.
Please take some time to read more stories of individuals on the autism spectrum on the official Stories of Autism website.