By Daniel J. Vance
Todd Schofield has an 8-year-old son diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. He owns Roseville Today, and publishes this column for readers in suburban Sacramento, Calif.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website defines autism as a wide spectrum of disorders characterized “by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted, repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior.” The Centers for Disease Control estimates autism affects anywhere from one in 166 to one in 500 Americans.
“We first found out when he was three,” said Schofield of his son, in a telephone interview. “Aaron's language skills started well, then regressed. At age four, we took him to a local school district and their team of experts indicated he was autistic.”
Schofield said his son has a higher functioning autism. He is affectionate and happy, and loves watching movies, using the computer, and reading. Like other children with autism, he resists change and absolutely requires having a set routine.
“When we go out in public, we have to limit where we go and how long we stay,” said Schofield. “A couple years ago we wouldn't go out at all because he'd throw fits after being overstimulated from the environments. Now we go out an hour at a clip because he's improved.”
A typical fit may consist of Aaron screaming, throwing around his body, and trying to pull the Schofields out the door to go home. Aaron also has a fixation for street and restroom signs. If allowed, he would visit Google, for instance, and repeatedly search for and print out the signs.
Schofield offered encouragement for parents in similar situations, saying, “Early in Aaron's life, we were often told by so-called professionals that Aaron would never look us in the eye, ask questions or say 'hello' to us. But thanks to early and intensive intervention by state, county, school and home programs, Aaron continues defying those expectations daily. We have seen him progress.”
He is the middle child of three, and has two sisters, ages five and ten.
Said Schofield, “Aaron has been a tremendous blessing to our family. He's given me the ability to be more compassionate and understanding towards people in all walks of life. It's my hope that one day he will understand that he has given me so much more than I could ever possibly give him.”
For more, see danieljvance.com or www.nimh.nih.gov [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]