Eight-year-old Joey is autistic.
I am not autistic, and I can have no real understanding of what it’s like to live in Joey’s mind. But let’s imagine for a moment, you and I. Through no fault of his own, Joey doesn’t fit in. His brain does not work like yours and mine. Things have to be right — according to what his brain tells him — or he becomes very, very anxious. Things must follow a strict unchanging routine. Things must be lined up exactly right. And when people don’t follow the rules of his world, and Joey is unable to clearly communicate the problem to them, and he’s very, very anxious — naturally, he throws a tantrum.
Joey came to Agape Villages last year. His family could not cope with the disruption and the tantrums and the difficulties of living with autism any longer, and they entrusted him to us.
Our good foster mom, Mary, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Laura, took Joey into their home. He has been able to bond with them and be close to them in a way that is remarkable for someone with autism. Mary is working to help Joey learn how to interact respectfully with others, and to be kind. That’s hard for him; the autism has affected Joey’s brain in such a way that interacting with others at all is a real struggle. Every time he speaks in a respectful tone, or responds to someone with kindness — those are victories for Joey.
Mary is working to help Joey increase his vocabulary and to speak more clearly. And, miracle of miracles, she is even getting him to try new foods! This departure from Joey’s need to keep everything the same is a real accomplishment for him. We are so excited about the progress Joey has made, and see a bright future ahead.