Local mom learned about autism first hand

Local mom learned about autism first hand
By JOE LOFARO
Special to the Press
Carolyn Freeman has seen autism up close for the past 16 years with her boys, Joe and John, and she says that the disorder is a spectrum that covers communication, socialization and sensory problems.
Her son Joe, who goes to school in Sharon, has limited verbalization because he doesn’t communicate. John, who goes to school in Dresden, has socialization issues.
“Joe has certain limitations because he does not communicate well, and John, doesn’t get the joke. Because the social cues are not there, John doesn’t get involved in any of the drama, which is not necessarily bad,” Carolyn said.
Freeman and her husband Mike have adjusted their lives around Joe and John, but at the beginning they were just like all parents when they found out their children had autism.
“At first we were in denial.” Carolyn said. “Once we got over that we went to Vanderbilt to see a pediatric neurologist, and then I started reading everything.
Autism is not easy. It is nothing you would wish on your worst enemy.”
The Freemans have participated in the CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorder) program, and they have been in support groups, but one of the best resources has been Gary Brown.
“A great resource in Martin and Weakley County has been Gary Brown. He owns The Children’s Treatment Center in Martin and is an Autism expert in assessment, diagnosis and treatment.”
Carolyn said teachers and educational assistants at both Sharon and Dresden have helped the family so much over the years.
While Joe and John have autism that doesn’t mean the boys aren’t boys. “They love to help out around the farm,” Carolyn said. “They both love being around the tractor.”
They both love to play on the computer and John is working on getting his driver’s license.
Even through the boys are 16 and have their own schedules, Carolyn and Mike still need a break.
“One of the best gifts anyone ever gave us was a night out at Christmas and again on Valentine’s Day,” Carolyn said.
Life with two 16-year-old autistic boys has its ups and downs.
But Carolyn said she would not trade for anything.
“I wish them to be free of autism. It’s just the new normal for us.”
Published in The WCP 4.18.13

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