Alex’s Story – “I Don’t Know”
Meet Our Students> Alex’s Story
When Alex was 2 years old he was not talking, playing with other children or interested in his toys; Alex has Autism. Despite all efforts, Alex’s communication consisted of grunts and whines. He would tantrum violently, or was lost in his own world. We were told he would never talk. “Alex can’t” became a phrase we became too familiar with. At 3, Alex would spend his time running back and forth, flapping his arms and making noises. Behavior that is typical in children with Autism. When interrupted he reacted by seeking to hurt himself or others. A medical professional opined that Alex was severely retarded and better suited for an institutional setting.
In our private moments, we consoled ourselves that Alex seemed happy when he was in his own world. But we worried, he was big for his age, already capable of injuring us. We were concerned that we would not be capable of restraining him for much longer.
At 41/2, Alex was accepted at Garden Academy. Filled with anxiety, we asked the School’s Director about Alex’s future. It was then that we heard three magical words “I don’t know”.
When we heard this, we felt frustration and disappointment. Disappointment, because despite it all, we still dreamed that someone would tell us Alex would be ok.. Frustration, because we secretly feared that Alex was severely disabled and that he was unwilling to say this directly. But Dr. Sidener explained and those words took on a different meaning; a glimmer of hope, buried so deep down that it was nearly gone, that Alex could one day thrive despite his disability.
Dr. Sidener told us that Alex spent so much time engaged in “stereotypical” behavior that he rarely had an opportunity to learn. Garden Academy’s first task would be to teach him to sit still and pay attention. Once Alex learned how to learn, we would be able to discover Alex’s potential. At Garden Academy Alex would develop the tools he needed to fulfill that potential.
In the two years Alex has been at Garden Academy our lives have changed dramatically. Today, Alex’s face lights up when we enter the room. He calls us “mommy” and “daddy” and tells us he loves us. Alex now learns from the world around him, picking up new phrases from hearing us speak. We even have to spell words when we don’t want him to know what we are saying! Alex can now sit calmly and eat a meal with his family, he enjoys spending time with his Grandma without concern that she couldn’t possibly restrain him. Alex rides his bicycle, swims in the pool and propels himself on a swing. He is engaging with other children, runs to his after school activities, and dances with his mom.
At Garden Academy Alex’s teacher has never said “Alex can’t”. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Garden Academy doesn’t see the problem as something that Alex can’t do, instead they develop a solution designed for him. Solutions that have since been presented at international professional conferences to help other’s meet similar challenges.
Today, when we think about Alex’s future, we still wonder; will he play with other children, be capable of living on his own, work, have a family? But, today, when we think of Alex’s future, we think of those three amazing words- I don’t know. Words that mean HOPE, a future unfolding and yet to be discovered, but one with unlimited potential.
We still worry, as all parent’s worry, about our son’s future. But that worry is now something we embrace for all its possibilities, because none of us know where our children’s journey will lead them. At Garden Academy we know Alex is walking on the right path and that he is getting the best help along the way. As the school has grown, we have seen this hope re-discovered in other families, Thank you Garden Academy!