A Story of Autism
by Carlton Hudgens as told by Bridget Hudgens
Carlton Hudgens was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at three years old. He didn’t speak or interact with the world around him, except with humming and flapping arms. The diagnosis provided a label, but not an answer. He was considered low-functioning, but all that meant was that there was a laundry list of tasks he couldn’t do, and little recognition of what he could.
Carlton’s sister, Bridget, just a year younger, became his protector, sharing their birthdays so that he could open the presents first, taking the blame for a broken toy to spare him from being punished on Christmas Day. She understood that she was living in Carlton’s world, not the other way around.
Because Carlton doesn’t speak in full sentences, Bridget has opted to tell his story. “My brother is brilliant in every way,” Bridget says. “He just doesn’t speak like we speak.”
When Carlton was five years old, he uttered his first words: “I love you, Mom!” Bridget was elated. That sentence meant that he could hear her, that he could speak, and that she had a chance to reach her ultimate goal of bonding with her brother.
Bridget was his protector, but Carlton became Bridget’s savior.
When Bridget was eleven years old, she and Carlton went to the public pool. Carlton was a natural swimmer, but Bridget couldn’t swim at all. As the two played a game in the shallow end, they drifted closer to the deep end. Bridget panicked, swallowing water and crying for help. Carlton swam to her and pulled her to safety. No longer was he different, with special needs, or “that kid with autism.” To Bridget, he was the big brother who had just saved her.
Later on, he became a savior to others. Autism didn’t stop him feeling compassion and love. It just made it harder for him to express those emotions.
Their parents’ divorce and the subsequent remarriage of their mother created a more stable life for Carlton, but Bridget had a hard time accepting the good changes. She had put herself second for so long, it was difficult to allow an adult to take over the care of her brother.
By early adulthood, Bridget began to realize that the most fulfilling part of her life was forming a deeper connection with Carlton—an unbreakable bond that would shape brother and sister for the rest of their lives. It was Carlton’s influence that led to her passion for helping others with special needs.
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Five Parent Take-Aways About Autism
Autism is fascinating, but challenging…it is not a curse
When a child is first diagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, parents, teachers, and family members sometimes tend to “stigmatize” the child for having a disorder. Not true! Autism can be a “gift.” Many children with Autism thrive in the school settings, excel socially, and go on to be very successful in life.
Find your child’s inner brilliance
Every child has something they excel at. It can be anything, so try not to be too judgmental. Reading, History, Geography, Art, Math, Video Games, Sports, Board Games… anything! Champion their cause (within reason). In many cases, it’s the only thing that brings them any level of satisfaction and/or “pride.” Embrace it!
Evaluation leads to liberation
Many parents are in denial about their child having Autism or being on the Asperger’s spectrum. Get them evaluated. Better to know where your child is, rather than be in the dark and not understand why they are the way they are. Better you provide them with a “base of understanding” so they know how to process a world that spins a hundred time faster than everyone else’s.
Be your child’s biggest advocate and loudest voice
Just because your child has Autism doesn’t always mean they belong in “Special Ed,” require an aide, or a need Behavioral Plan! Do not agree to any of these if the behavior is not impeding his/her ability to perform or learn in school. The range of assistance for a child is really on a “case by case” basis. Talk to your District about services and use them only to your child’s advantage.
Strive towards independence
Treat your children with Autism like you treat your other children. Don’t enable them and always want to “save them.” Help them to be as independent as possible. Everyone needs to understand “failure.” Not every lesson needs to be a teaching opportunity. Give them the space to learn at their own level. Remember, children on the spectrum just want to be loved and respected like any other child.
Credit: Carolyn Battin is a retired Special Education teacher at Vanderburg Elementary School in Henderson, Nevada for seventeen years. She has dedicated 30 years working with children from the ages of 5-18. She specializes in teaching children with Learning Disabilities, including Autism and those on the Asperger’s Spectrum.
ABOUT THE EXPERTS
Carolyn Battin is a retired Special Education teacher at Vanderburg Elementary School in Henderson, Nevada for seventeen years. She has dedicated 30 years working with children from the ages of 5-18. She specializes in teaching children with Learning Disabilities, including Autism and those on the Asperger’s Spectrum.
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