Top left, McKinley and Bristol standing top right.
Front: Viv, Ruby and Avery. Second row: Hadley & Easton.
by Holly J. McKinley-Weaver
It’s my favorite time of year again! Autism Awareness month is here! Every year I am happy to share with you an update on my son, McKinley and his struggles and progress and also provide other information about Autism. McKinley was diagnosed at age 2 with Autism and now is 13! A teenager, oh my!
Autism, what is it? Well, the text book meaning reads; Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.
For McKinley he touches on a bit of all that. He still struggles with “Normal” interaction with kids his own age. Even though he is now 13, his interest has not changed much as he has gotten older. McKinley will still pick toys, if given a choice, Lightening McQueen and Thomas the Train. They are still two his favorite items to play with. The last couple years he has really taken an interest in Legos which is more age appropriate for him.
If any of you have gotten the chance to speak with McKinley you know he is truly one happy guy! Communication or speech has been something he has worked very hard on since he was two. McKinley was non verbal until he was around 5. We knew what different noises or grunts meant but it wasn’t until he was older that words actually formed that others could understand. I contribute his speech progress to the numerous therapies he started at such a young age. It is still difficult for him to have a back-and-forth conversation with others. He is still working hard to understand and know how to properly communicate with others. One of McKinley’s traits he hasn’t out grown with his communication is echolalia. When he was younger, he could repeat a whole Thomas the Train cartoon show. Now McKinley has moved on to watching other shows and movies and can do the same thing. He often is talking to himself and laughing. When he is asked what is so funny, he will respond with what show or movie part that he is scripting in his head. McKinley loves the show Heartland and can tell you what season, episode and what each character in the shows real name is.
As many of the rest of us, COVID has been tricky with us. Face coverings, staying home, with home learning has brought us different challenges. McKinley has been an absolute trooper through all of this. He enjoys being at home and surrounded by his things and did well with the at home learning due to his teachers! Two years ago, McKinley started the life skills program at Keystone Elementary in Knox. What a great move for him! He loves his teacher and the aides in the room and has formed friendships with kids in the life skills classroom. The teachers and the aides in his classroom have been a blessing. He has made beautiful progress with this learning and has checked off many of his goals in is his IEP. McKinley is lucky to have his cousin Amelia and a good friend Landon, whose brother is also on the Spectrum, in his regular education classroom to help him navigate his time outside of this life skills classroom and with his typical peers which can be difficult for him.
Every year I look at McKinley and can’t help but be so proud of him! He has overcome so many struggles and always has a smile on his face. He works very hard and continues to amaze me with his kind and caring soul. Although he is a teenager now and sometimes even talks like a teenager, we didn’t get to skip that like I was hoping we would, I wouldn’t change it for anything. He is moving forward even if it’s a slower pace than most. I’m excited about what his future holds for him!
I ask everyone this month to read a little about Autism and other Developmental Delays. Our lives with McKinley in it are beyond blessed. He has shown us the true meaning of kindness and patience’s. I often think if everyone had McKinley’s outlook on life how happy this world be! Until next year!