An Exclusive Look at AUTISM With Michael Leddin
Encouragement speaker Derrick Hayes gives an AUTISM interview by asking six questions through each letter in the word AUTISM to give readers insightful perspectives from parents, experts, entrepreneurs, and other leaders in the field.
Today’s AUTISM Interview is with Michael Leddin who is the executive director of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in Chicago. He is husband to Tammy, father to Nicole, Danny, and Taylor, and stepfather to Brett, Luke, and Jake. Michael’s son, Danny, was diagnosed with autism at a young age and is nonverbal. He lives a life full of laughter and happiness and makes everyone else’s life a bit brighter.
A is for Awareness
When and how did you first become aware that something was different?
Danny had been hitting the normal milestones of development (sitting up, crawling, walking, etc.) although there seemed to be a delay with his speech. He had quite a few ear infections and high fevers that I thought may have been impacting him/impeding his progress, and then after his first birthday, we noticed some regression. The limited amount of speech he had seemed to disappear. He became increasingly more uncomfortable in social settings. We took him for an evaluation before he turned two years old and received the first diagnosis.
U is for Unique
How has this experience been Unique for you and your child?
To state the obvious, we are all unique people, with our own set of likes, dislikes, skills, challenges, etc., and having a child with autism is no different in that regard. Danny has been in school with many others on the spectrum, and they are all different. This experience has been unique for Danny and me in that we have had to find ways to connect with one another, and for me to truly appreciate what a special gift he is and just how fortunate I am to call him my son.
T is for Tools
What tools are there now that were not there in the beginning that could help other parents?
The number of children born with autism has been growing significantly over the years. When Danny was diagnosed it was 1 in every 161 children born were on the spectrum, now in the United States it is 1 in 59 births. With this comes an increased awareness, research, and programs for assisting children with autism. With early intervention and programs such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) children are developing more tools in combating some of the challenges associated with autism.
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I is for Inspire
As a parent when you look at your child or children what inspires you?
I am blessed with wonderful gifted children that make this world a better place by being a part of it. There is nothing about Danny that doesn’t inspire me. I love the way he approaches each day, the things
that we take for granted or overlook on a regular basis that are important to him or bring him joy. I love to see him smile and to hear him laugh.
S is for Support
Are there things you struggle with or have struggled with and what types of support do you still need?
We have been very fortunate to live in an area that has services for Danny. I worry about what is going to happen to him when he gets older, where he will live, will he be happy, if there is something wrong with him how will it be diagnosed/treated, etc. Most I worry that when I am gone that he will not know that I didn’t leave by choice.
M is for Manage
What keys to success can you leave with parents so that they can better manage their day to day efforts?
My advice to other parents would be to “be grateful for what you have.” While I wish things were different for Danny, I take comfort in knowing that he is well cared for, deeply loved, and I believe is very comfortable and happy in his life. We as parents need to do everything we can to help our children grow and develop, and then we need to step back and appreciate what wonderful people they become. How many dads are lucky enough to have their 29-year-old son greet them when they come home each
night, ask them to scratch his back and have him sit on their lap.
Please visit http://www.smsm.com/attorneys-Michael-Leddin.html for more information about Michael Leddin.
Derrick Hayes is an author, motivational speaker, and paraprofessional with autism students in the Muscogee County School District in Columbus, Georgia.
This article was featured in Issue 85 – Top Strategies for Supporting your Family