I Want My Money Back

John Scott Holman struggled with undiagnosed autism for nearly 25 years. His diagnosis has enabled him to embrace his individuality and move forward. He writes and speaks publicly about his life with autism, hoping to inspire greater understanding and acceptance.At the tender age of fifteen, I saw my first psychologist, a stern, elderly man who smelled like a second hand bookstore. His full, wiry beard was speckled with white and gray, as if it had caught the contents of an overturned ashtray. It fell past his chest, disappearing beneath the edge of his massive, oak desk. I wondered if it reached his toes, and leaned forward awkwardly, hoping for a revealing glimpse. “Young man,” he said, startling me. “Tell me why you’re here.” “Do you shampoo that beard?” I asked. “Excuse me…” “You look like Charles Darwin.” He leaned back and stared at me, mildly annoyed, as if I was a fly he had noticed swimming in his coffee. “Your family is concerned by you behavior. I believe…” “I commend you, sir!” I interrupted. “The world is experiencing a shortage of truly magnificent facial hair; you’ve got the best beard I’ve seen all year! You know who else had a good beard? Sigmund Freud. Are you [...] continue the story

John’s Story

John was diagnosed with autism in 1988 at about 3 1/2 years old. At the time, we were as sad as if he had died. Now that John is 25, he’s happy, helpful, and, most importantly, still making progress in many areas. He may not have the life that we envisioned when he was born, but it’s still a meaningful, productive one. I think that’s one of the biggest life lessons that autism has taught me: that ultimately, we can all be contributing members of society.

Ellie’s Story

My beautiful, bright-eyed daughter Gabrielle, or Ellie, started speaking at 10 months and had an 800-word vocabulary by 18 months. Then, at 21 months, she stopped speaking and pointing, and her eyes looked “empty.” She started screaming for everything she wanted, and began to fixate on her fingers, lights, fans and music. We knew something was very wrong, but the pediatrician we consulted told us to wait it out. We even brought up the idea of autism, but were told that since our daughter did speak and was a girl, it was highly unlikely that she had autism. Our pediatrician had never heard of regressive autism—and he was trained at a top children’s hospital.

Flash forward 11 years, and my now 13-year-old is three inches taller than me and is bright-eyed once again. Through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, she has regained a lot of skills she had lost, and continues to learn new ones every day. She is verbal, and very good at telling us what she wants and needs, but she struggles with fine motor skills, basic reading and math, group learning, and social cues and conversation. Ellie goes to school for a half day and ABA therapy for [...] continue the story