This is Lisa Weafer’s story, in her words. It really touched me, and I am honored to share it with my readers.
My son was diagnosed with Autism at about 2 ¾ years of age. I remember the day well. The Behavioral Psychiatrist told me that Kyle would definitely plateau in his development, probably would never say more than 2 or 3 words and that we should be prepared for that. I took a slow, deep breath, and said, “Thank you very much, but as Kyle’s mom, I have to prove you wrong”. That was 16 years ago, and Kyle is almost 19, a senior in high school and having an incredible year. This was the year he decided to play football and turn out for the wrestling team, activities that my husband and I thought we would never see.
Life with Kyle has certainly had its share of challenges. He has days where his OCD is in overdrive, rituals and obsessions are being played out to the max, and to add to that he has always been a “tactically defensive” child. He never liked being touched, loud noises were painful, wearing clothing with sleeves, long pants, denim were definitely out, and one of the biggest challenges of all: getting Kyle to wear shoes and socks. To this day, clothing is still an issue. It has always been difficult for Kyle to transition to appropriate seasonal clothing for the fall and winter months. He has what we refer to as a “uniform” that includes Kansas State football jerseys or t-shirts, gray jersey shorts and Adidas flip flops. Never mind that it is 20 degrees outside with snow flurries. By now, people are used to seeing him dressed in his “uniform” but early on, we got a lot of strange looks, and comments and criticisms were a plenty as you can imagine. We always joke and tell him that he is going to have to retire in Key West, where he can walk on the beach in his bare feet and swimsuit and not have to worry about wearing shoes or cold weather clothing!
It is amazing, with all of the challenges that Kyle has faced, that he would approach his dad before his senior year of high school and say “I play football.” My husband and I were thrilled, but we knew that we were about to face an enormous hurdle: what to do about the fact that football is a contact sport, the crowd noise level might be enough to send him into orbit, and most of all the clothing and shoe issue. To make a very long story short, it took many, many weeks of tantrums, social stories and sensory integration techniques to work through the issues, but eventually he did, shoes and all! Once he made up his mind to play football, it was if he knew he was going to have to come through on his end of the deal, that being able to work hard and get through his tactile and sensory issues.
One of the main things that I would like others to learn about Kyle’s story is that anything is possible. If I had listened to that doctor 16 years ago I can honestly tell you that Kyle’s progress would not be at the level that it is now. We have been fortunate that throughout preschool, elementary middle and high school, Kyle has had nothing but wonderful teachers that have embraced him, worked patiently with him, and have helped him to become the confident young man that he is today. Kyle is truly “living the dream” and so are we. I am so proud of all of his accomplishments.