By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Like many of you, some of my longest friendships have formed with people I’ve met through work. And while many of us have since held different jobs over the years, we’ve all kept in touch thanks to the marvel of social media.
My friend Scot is one of those people; we met while working together at a local TV station.
Almost every day I’ll log into Facebook to see how my friends and family across the globe are doing. Usually, I’ll scroll by quickly, past a whirlwind of posts about kids, or birthday reminders, or job updates or photos of someone’s dinner. But every time I get to a post from Scot, I stop.
“Sometimes being Alexander means…” his posts will begin, often accompanied by a photo of a serious-faced 7-year-old boy with rosy cheeks and blue eyes like the sky at dusk.
Let me back up for a second here, though. If you saw Scot without knowing him, you might be intimidated. He’s a tall man, especially here in the Valley. He walks with purpose and speaks with such, too. He’s very to-the-point and possesses a sharp sense of humor that can sometimes teeter on the line of going too far. Scot knows these things about himself and would be the first one to tell you, to lessen the shock, I suppose.
But then you’ll see those four words — “Sometimes being Alexander means…” — and what inevitably follows is an incredibly intimate and exceedingly gentle look at the life of Scot’s young son, Alexander. It’s a glimpse into how Alexander’s mind — how his world — works, as translated by his father.
Alexander has autism. It means his brain works in a different way compared to neurotypical people. It means he takes in everything he sees, hears and thinks differently, sometimes in ways that can overwhelm him. Likewise, how he communicates with others is affected by his autism.
Scot’s posts are often descriptions of simple activities: walks in the park where either him or his eldest son will carry Alexander on their shoulders as he explores the leaves and the sky, stories of stressful days at school, tales about Alexander’s favorite foods, or recaps of quiet evenings spent at home.
Recently, though, I was brought to tears when I read two particular posts.
Accompanying a photo of Alexander bashfully covering his mouth with his hand was written, “Sometimes, being Alexander means being shocked at what you just said. Dad, really, I didn’t know I could even say anything until it popped out of my mouth. Don’t make a big deal about it, it was probably a mistake. I assure you it will never happen again. If it does we’ll both be just as shocked.”
In a post script Scot added that Alexander had called him “dad.”
Earlier, when the young boy had also responded with “Yeah!” to a question, Scot wrote, “That one word was an entire world to me.”
I sat quietly absorbing what I had just read and became overcome with emotion for the small triumph my friend had just experienced with his son.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism — a sharp increase from a rate of 1 in 2,000 or so during the 1970s and 1980s. Our schools and social systems are working hard to meet the needs of these children, via research and other means. Autism awareness is on the rise nationwide, as well, but it’s not nearly enough.
So what can you do? You can help support your friends and neighbors who have children with autism. You can also come on out for the Point Isabel Independent School District’s annual Walk & Run for Autism this Saturday morning. The event kicks off at 8 a.m. For more information, call (956)943-0663 or visit online at tinyurl.com/2016AutismAwareness.
And of course, be sure to visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.
Want the whole story? Pick up a copy of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.