Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM Interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to give readers an insightful perspective from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Today’s AUTISM Interview is Laura Toro, the mother of a 22-year-old autistic son, Kaelen. Her son is now a member of the Stewart National Air Guard Base in Orange County and a volunteer fireman with the South Blooming Grove Fire Department. He is also a member of the Thunderbolts special needs basketball and bowling teams and has won many medals in the West Point Special Olympics, competing in the long jump, 100-meter dash, relay, and javelin throwing. He graduated from Washingtonville High School and completed BOCES Hospitality courses. He is currently attending Winslow Therapeutic Center as his day program.
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different about your child?
He was 15 months old and I noticed he was tiptoeing, flapping his hands, and not making much eye contact.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been unique for you and your child?
My son is uniquely amazing. He has taught not only me but everyone he meets the true meaning of patience, kindness, and innocence, and that love is unconditional. In his world everyone should be nice and kind.
T is for Tools
What tools did you not have access to as a parent that you think could benefit autism
Tools in school should include teaching hands-on life skills to kids with autism—real life skills. Building, hammering, cooking, ironing, folding, and safety.
Click here to find out more
I is for Inspire
As a parent, when you look at your child, what inspires you?
He is my hero and my inspiration. He is the strongest person I know, and he fights for himself. After the age of 18, Kaelen started to experience mood changes. This caused him to have to be homeschooled for a few months. He would say “Mama, I am trying my best and I am a good person and I know I have to be calm at school and I promise I’m going to do it, please let me go back to school with my friends.” With the doctor and school administrators on board, he was able to return to school and finish his last few weeks with his classmates who missed him so much.
He made it to graduation on June 27th, 2019! I’m crying as I type this because I have never been more proud of my son. He did it! He walked down and got his diploma! No matter how overwhelmed he was, how much sensory overload there was, how difficult it was for him, HE DID IT! He inspires me when I’m feeling overwhelmed; all I do is look at him and hug him and I’m ready to move on.
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with, and what types of support
do you still need?
Support is always needed. A good support system consists of a group of people ready to step in for an hour or a couple of hours and spend time with Kaelen. He enjoys company and this makes him happy. Having friends and being invited and included is most important.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so they can better manage their day-to-day efforts?
Have patience, take breaks, talk to friends, take “ME” time, be persistent when it comes to your child’s needs and IEP, have real expectations, communicate with your child’s teachers, involve your child in every sport or activity you possibly can, and most of all: ACCEPT AND LOVE THIS CHILD GOD HAS TRUSTED YOU WITH!
This article was featured in Issue 107 – Caring for Your Autism Family