April shines light on autism awareness

Jessica Phillips

A blue hand print decorates the inside of the word 'Autism'.

By Jessica Phillips

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As April makes its appearance on calendars, it brings with it Autism Awareness Month. The month is dedicated to educating the nation on the cognitive disorder that affects one in sixty-eight children in America.

Lori Jenkins, junior English teacher, has a son with autism. Jenkins said, “People say that if you have met one autistic kid, you have met one autistic kid, because all of their cases are so different.”

Jenkins’ son, Neyland, has a more severe case of autism. Jenkins shared that when she and her husband discovered the diagnosis, they were overwhelmed. “You have these ideas of what your child will be like: they’re going to play baseball, then it’s just gone.”

Jenkins admits that she was scared. “I was so afraid that I’d have a son who would never want to hug me or hold onto me.” Neyland, however, is “very affectionate,” unlike many autistic kids.

Students with moderate forms of the disorder walk among those at Ola High who are labeled ‘neurotypical’. Many of these students are straight-A, well-involved students who attempt to do their best and often choose to remain silent about their autism.

“I’m kind of quirky. I like cartoons and I have a dry sense of humor. I love playing creative mode on Minecraft a lot. I like art and drawing,” a female sophomore said.

Jenkins explained the behavior of a person with autism/Aspergers syndrome. “They tend to fixate on things. For Neyland, it’s school buses, Angry Birds, and Peppa Pig…for another child in his class, it’s clocks.”

“[What keeps me going] is my vision of my future, my goal of graduating high school, and the love of my family,” commented a male senior.

Often times, in more severe forms of autism, a child may not be able to develop relationships or communicate with people – even family members.

Autism Awareness month is intended to shed a light on the fact that not each case is the same, and that no autistic child is the same.

“[What makes me special] is that I’m strong in my faith,” said a male freshman.

Jenkins said that as a parent, even though the diagnosis may be scary, “at the end of the day, [your child] will always be yours.”