As the saying appropriately goes, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Meet my son Devin. If you read my blog you know him well. He is the reason this blog exists. Born in 1993, he is a child of the pre-Autism Speaks age. Before we were fluent in internet searches for resources, research and direction, families like mine were on our own. Pediatricians who discounted boys as “slow” and persnickety learners were aplenty. Early intervention programs were scarce, school districts routinely denied the most basic of services, and there were few professionals who would even consider a diagnosis of autism for a child under the age of five. In short, there was no awareness, no acceptance, and little sense of hope for children expected of having the “a word.” As I have often said, we were lucky; as a physical therapist I had treated toddlers at St.Mary’s Children’s Hospital who were diagnosed with “atypical developmental disorder” in the 1970s. Fifteen years later, I recognized what was oh so very familiar in my own one-year-old son. Frankly, I was equipped to work the system. When I could not receive the diagnosis I sought, I took my son weekly to a private speech therapist. I hounded my school district until they provided a special education teacher who came to our home twice weekly. Thereafter, my son spent three years in a center-based school, repeated Kindergarten, and then completed another three in a private school catering to special needs children. As he was drawn out of his isolated world, as he slowly connected to the people in his life, as he turned ten years old, we finally met Devin.
We Light It Up Blue for every family awaiting diagnosis. We screw in the blue light bulb for our neighbor receiving their 100 Days Kit next week. My house goes blue on April 2nd in the hopes that research will reveal the answers that my grandchildren will most likely need. I know in my heart it was that the aggressive and very early treatment that unlocked my boy’s full potential. At twenty-one, he received his very first paycheck TODAY. As a Congressional Intern for the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Capitol Hill has come to know Devin, its one person with autism.