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18 Things I've Learned Now That My Son With Autism Is Turning 18

By Hannah Brown, contributor to The Huffington Post and author of the book, If I Could Tell You

"Dusty skies/I can’t see nothin’ in sight” are the lyrics to what my son Danny calls a “cowboy song” — “Dusty Skies,” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. It’s the first tune on a CD of classic country & western music that he listens to first thing every morning. Transitions are difficult for Danny, who turns 18 next week and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. Country songs ease him into the day.

Danny doesn’t know about the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma in the 1930s, or that “Dusty Skies” is the lament of a farmer who has to take his cattle on the road and abandon his beloved home. But the song is an insanely appropriate metaphor for parents coping with their children’s autism. The farmer tried everything he could, but there is no relief on the horizon, and no one upon whom he can rely, other than the horse that leads him into the unknown. “Good Old Dan, you’ll have to guide me right,” Wills sings.

My son was diagnosed with autism in November, 1999, and in all these years, no medical doctor has ever offered any substantive treatment for him. Trying to help Danny live the best life possible has been an enormous challenge, and it has led me to blunder, half-blind, like the narrator of the song. I’m certainly not alone: The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta released the latest statistics last Thursday, which showed that autism is now diagnosed in one out of 68 children, up from one in 88 just two years ago, a shocking increase.

My good old Dan has led me much farther afield than I ever imagined he would when he was born, and he has always brought me to people who can guide us right — eventually. There have been many wonderful therapists and teachers who have helped him, and he has made slow but steady progress. While at one time, he spoke few coherent words, had tantrums with dizzying frequency and seemed as if he would never be toilet-trained, now he is able to speak clearly (although he will often talk about friends from preschool as if he saw them yesterday), read and write, play piano and compete in the Special Olympics (he won a gold medal in swimming last year). He is so affectionate and warm that many of his therapists have kept in touch with us for over a decade after they stopped working with him.

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To finish reading the full story, visit The Huffington Post: Parents website:

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