My son was diagnosed with autism on a cold and cloudy day in January 2006. The elderly developmental pediatrician glared at me over the top of her glasses and uttered the word I had hoped not to hear. “Autism,” she said in clipped tone. It was clearly a word she used a great deal. It was not in my everyday vocabulary; not until that pivotal moment. The doctor turned to leave the room. She’d dropped the “A” word, and now satisfied that her work was done, she was ready to get out of Dodge.
“What do I do now?” I asked her before she could get away. She said many things. Looking back, almost none of them were useful. She basically told me to take him home and enjoy the fact that he would never become a functioning adult, and to be thankful that society would no longer require him to be put in a home. Thanks. And she made me promise not to do applied behavior analysis (ABA) with my child. She said it would turn him into a robot. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to learn that her ideas about autism and ABA were antiquated, pessimistic and just plain false.
Five years later, autism is a big part of my daily vocabulary, not because it is some insurmountable problem, but because it has been part of an amazing journey that my family took and survived. It would be easy to say that our survival was the product of sheer hard work, because that certainly was a factor, but it wouldn’t begin to tell the whole story. We survived and even thrived because of the help we got from The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). They had a plan, a curriculum and twenty years of experience to guide us. They gave us help, hope and a course of action. Our lives changed, our child thrived. Our gratitude was, and is, endless.
Now CARD is launching a new tool in the war against autism called Skills™. Skills takes the entire CARD curriculum and makes it accessible to parents, teachers and caregivers around the world. Skills makes it possible, after an extensive assessment, to customize a program that is uniquely tailored to teach an individual child based on their specific needs. It takes the help my child received and makes it portable. It used to be that your child needed to live within 30 miles of a CARD office in order to benefit from this knowledge. Now there are no boundaries on how far this tool can reach.
My mission is to help parents, teachers and caregivers to use this tool to its maximum potential. Starting in April, I will be hosting Skills Live. Each day I will webcasting live from the CARD headquarters in Los Angeles, answering questions, offering tips for success and strategies for learning. I hope you’ll join the conversation because together we can spread the message that there is effective, affordable treatment for autism.