Our family has lived in the world of autism since the early 1980’s when our son, Doug, was born. Of course, we didn’t know he was autistic from birth on April 1, 1984, but we grew, as a family, to understand what the world of autism is all about.
Like any parent of a child with autism, I would give anything in my world to not have had a reason to learn about this syndrome. I have learned out of necessity, and although it has been a journey I may not have chosen to take, I have no regrets. My dreams for my son didn’t die when I learned he was autistic, they changed. All of life does.
Doug has taught our family a lot about faith, determination, persistence, consistency, fortitude, and climbing mountains carved by life. He has grown beyond my vision of years ago and he continues to inspire my dreams for his future.
Doug graduated from chaparral high school, Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 4, 2003, at high noon. He graduated with a class rank of 72 out of 474 with a regular diploma. The week before graduation, Doug received notice that he had been accepted in the learning disabilities program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). There he would be a drummer with the star of Nevada marching band, and, as usual, we wouldn’t miss a performance.
Doug attended UNLV for two years. Today, he is 32 years old and in August, will celebrate his seventh year of full-time employment at one of the premiere resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Doug drives a car, enjoys athletic clubs, has friends, and pays taxes. Yes, he remains autistic because autism is a life-long disability. And do you know what, it may have taken me a lifetime journey, but today I can say, “that’s okay – that’s really okay.”
Tim and I also have a daughter, Katie, who is two years younger than Doug. She has been instrumental in her brother’s development. For those of you who have other children, you won’t want to miss Katie’s touching story and lessons about being raised with a sibling with autism.
To this day, I still cannot tell you whether autism is classified as an illness, a disease, or a syndrome. It does not really matter to me though, nor do all the textbook definitions, the medical interpretations, or the scientific hypotheses still waiting to be proven. What does matter to me is my brother, Doug, who has autism. I am glad Doug is my brother. He has taught me to both laugh and cry at all life has to offer – to value each day on the way to the sky.