Illustration by Athena Heckman
Autism: a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought or behavior. One percent of the world population has autism in some degree of severity, according to the Autism Society.
Freshman Taylor Shane is just one of several students at the high school who has been diagnosed with autism within their lifetime. His sister, senior Katelin Shane, and his family work together to assure that he has all the resources necessary for him to become independent in the future.
“He was diagnosed with autism when he was 6 years old and in kindergarten. Autism affects every member of our family in different ways. We are emotionally impacted by daily challenges, but this also made our family closer together,” Katelin said.
Each member of a family is able to contribute and help out with the child who has been diagnosed with autism. With the help of several people, it is more manageable for a family to make sure that the child is getting the care they need.
“By educating ourselves, we have learned how to deal with these daily challenges. This diagnosis has opened our eyes for sure. We have also become more understanding and forgiving,” Taylor’s mom, Kelley Shane, said.
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning that the disorder ranges from mild to severe. Depending on the degree of the disorder, people with autism are given specific care and treatment based on their individual case, according to MedLine Plus.
“There are many variations of autism, and it affects every child differently. Unfortunately, it can’t be fixed, but we can help others gain knowledge and understanding,” Katelin said.
An attempt was made to interview Taylor, but he was unable to respond.
William Sproule is another student who faces similar daily obstacles to Taylor. He is a 2019 graduate of the high school who was diagnosed with Asperger’s and is now learning the skills to get a job in the workforce.
“People don’t really treat me differently because I have Asperger’s, other than the fact that it has sometimes been hard to make friends. We are just regular people and are nothing really different,” William said.
Different families find out the diagnosis of their child at various times throughout their life. In William’s case, he had an early diagnosis because he found out that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was only four years old.
“He was first diagnosed with autism when he was in preschool, and my mom noticed that instead of hanging out with other kids he would choose to play alone with himself. People usually don’t know from the start what Asperger's is. They usually assume that autism and Asperger’s are the exact same thing,” junior and William’s sister Caroline Sproule said.
According to Web MD, Asperger’s disorder is diagnosed when an individual is very intelligent. However, they lack social skills. Asperger’s is considered to be a mild type of autism based on the spectrum.
When a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, there is a variety of different responses to the news. Each family handles it differently depending on their views and prior knowledge with the disorder.
“I was sad at first because I didn’t want William to miss out on anything socially, but then I realized that God made him unique. My focus turned to understanding why he was the way he was and is. My focus also turned to finding ways to help him and people to help him (and us) be the best he could be,” William’s mom, Suzanne Sproule, said.
There are days where dealing with the disorder may be harder than others. However, working towards helping the child diagnosed become more self-sufficient may enable things to be easier in the future.
“Sometimes life was hard, but as William matured, it got easier. It was important to look at each of our children differently and not compare, especially with friends,” Suzanne said.
According to the Autism Society, Autism Awareness Month takes place during the month of April. Within this month, people are encouraged to donate to the cause and show their support towards those facing the disability.
“I think maybe bringing awareness to all the different branches of autism, because a lot of people aren’t aware of it,” Caroline said. “It’s a time where we are able to show our support and hear other people’s stories. People can also educate themselves,” Katelin said.