To answer the above title, nothing. Still, for years, I thought the answer was plenty. I didn’t speak much until I was five years old (other than to say, “Barney”). Growing up, I struggled in terms of both learning and socialization. Skills that normally come easily to most kids took me a significant amount of time just to understand, even the basics. I often had a hard time knowing how to convey or express myself to others, especially when surrounded by other kids. It always felt as if they were leagues ahead of me.
Whenever I felt bored or upset, my parents would often focus my attention on elaborate puzzles. They were mainly there to keep me occupied on the rare occasion that they left me with a babysitter. What surprised them the most was that, by the time they would come home, I had already completed the puzzle set. To them this was no simple feat, especially how their son who could not talk managed to put together five hundred pieces into one clear image.
My evaluation from doctors and multiple professionals did nothing to help my situation. When they were done testing (including my ears and eyesight), I was diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). They told my mother that I would have no chance at living an independent future. They also predicted that by age sixteen I would be institutionalized for the duration of my life. Despite this, my mother knew that those depressing results did not reflect my mentality or skill set.
I did not understand my situation at the time because I had no concept of what my condition was or why everything was happening around me. All I knew was that my weekly routine consisted of multiple doctor appointments, therapy sessions, and a lot of attention from my parents, who went above and beyond in helping me learn. Even with their help, however, I still didn’t know what the future held for me.
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