Sean Sokler. An Autobiography
My name is Sean Sokler. I am 24 years old. In those 24 years, I have been through a lot. I talked, and then I lost most of my ability to talk. My parents were told I was going to die. My parents were told that I was retarded. My parents were misinformed. I am now a student at George Mason University. I may be autistic, but I am neither dead nor retarded.
I was born on December 8, 1980. I was my parent's first child. Apparently I had a tough time in the hospital. I had a tough time in early life as well. I never reached my developmental goals on time. I crawled at 12 months on hands and knees. I pulled up at 13 months. I walked at 22 months. I had hypotonia in most of my muscles.
My parents took me to lots of doctors and hospitals. I was seen at Georgetown, at Children's Hospital, at the National Institute of Health, and at Johns Hopkins. I was given tons of tests and exams. They all turned out negative. My parents have recounted that no one was sure what my problem was.
I was very social, not autistic then at all. I smiled constantly, and I laughed a lot. Many autistic people are not social at all, and do not interact with others. I could speak 500 words by age two.
I received lots of physical therapy and occupational therapy. I started special education in the Arlington public schools before I was three. I was the most hyperactive boy in the world. They had to put me in a stander for cerebal palsy kids to get me to stop, but I liked the stander, so I ran around so they would put me in it. I was kicked out of one preschool because I would not pick up my blocks.
When I reached the age to start elementary school, a new class was started at Jamestown Elementary so I could attend a school with regular kids but in my own classroom. During that time, I began talking less and less, and could say fewer and fewer words. I just couldn't make words come out. My parents talk me to more doctors, who said that because I was regressing, I was possibly dying.
By that time, I was being labeled mentally retarded. I knew better, but I could not communicate it. Television helped me learn. I watched Sesame Street. I watched CNN Headline News. I watched Wheel of Fortune every night. My parents thought I liked the noise and liked Vanna White. Wheel of Fortune is a good way to learn to read words. I also watched Jeopardy every night, and learned a lot of things that way.
Everything changed around Halloween my Fifth Grade year. My mother went and saw a lecture on something called facilitated communication here in Virginia, given by a woman named Judy Baily. It had started in Australia where a woman named Rosemary Crossley had started teaching autistic people to tight, using hand support. Doug Bickland, a professor at Syracuse University, had seen Rosie and her students in Australia, and had brought f.c. back to Syracuse. Judy Baily had been taught f.c. at Syracuse.
Judy came to our house and trained me, my parents, and my caregiver Jen Dillon how to f.c. I started with my mom on Halloween night. I used f.c. with her and that was the beginning of heaven. I could now communicate when I wanted to-which I don't always want to do. I could show what I knew, and people would now I had learned lots of things.