April 2nd, Autism Awareness Day and to think there once was a time that I was unaware, maybe even a bit uncaring as to what Autism is or was. However, approximately 21 years the diagnosis of my youngest son revealed that he was Autistic (Asperger’s) despite the apparent signs were not glaring, yet they were there. In fact, at the age of 18 months, four and ½ months before his diagnosis, Alex did exhibit some signs that maybe there was something different about him. He began banging his head on the floor creating black and blue marks that did not phase him but upset me. Only to be told by his pediatrician it was just a phase. However, this phase expanded, and Alex’s curiosity became intense. He would ask a question and needed an answer, in fact, he could tell if you were bluffing him and he would get very frustrated. It was if he already knew the answer but was testing us.
Soon more symptoms began to surface including being bothered by loud sounds and crowds yet craving them at the same time. During this period, Alex was a happy, social toddler growing into a little boy. At age six he was diagnosed by the school psychologist and eventually by Dr. Max Wiznitzer (University Hospital of Cleveland). The fear of the fire alarm and bells ringing in school would unnerve him that rather than line up with his classmates to leave the room he would cower under his desk.
For the most part, Alex has been a fortunate individual on the Autism Spectrum. He has not suffered any other neurological issues to affect his speech, hearing, learning or physical abilities. However, he has suffered from unawareness and bigotry (been bullied!) by those who do not understand or accept the reality of this spectrum disorder. Since grade school, he has been his own advocate sharing with his classmates and others as to who he is and what Autism means to him. He became involved with the most prominent Autism Charities as a speaker, performer, and volunteer to bring awareness to the misguided, including parents of children with this diagnosis.
Today Alex is working two jobs, owns an internet radio station (newclevelandradio.net), broadcasting a sports-oriented show and has for almost six years. Not only has he co-written songs with his Grammy Award-winning uncle, Joel Moss, his music tells the story of who he is and why he wants you to accept him. Alex is currently working to put together a documentary on Autism, but instead of discussing the journey from the lowest end of the spectrum he wants to begin at the highest end, where many are misunderstood and left feeling alone.
This week on Thursday on newclevelandradio.net I will have the distinct pleasure of speaking with John Kearny for the second time as he shares why he cares a sign that says, “I have autism.” John is yet another advocate for those on the spectrum who are struggling to be part of norm…because they are!