Shrewsbury couple offer support to families with autism
By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Life with autism can be a roller coaster ride of exhilarating moments and sudden plunges into despair. Wayne and Kelly Carey have experienced all of this as they have learned to deal with autism, which affects their three sons.
Although there is a wide spectrum of what is considered autistic behavior, many times it can often be characterized by difficulties with social interaction, communication, and imagination. Those who are autistic may have restricted and repetitive interests and behaviors. Younger children who have been diagnosed with autism often focus on parts of toys, such as the wheels on a car, or make long lines of pieces, rather than playing with the entire toy. Some people tend to “stim” (flap their hands), rock, and avoid eye contract. They may not be empathetic to others and may completely miss clues on what the general population may consider “normal” social behavior.
The Careys’ three sons, Wayne, Gage and Joel, are all affected by autism to varying degrees. As Kelly explained, the autism spectrum is huge, and the disability is complex.
“We started noticing that our oldest son, Wayne, wasn’t talking around age 1. He would walk around the house repeating ‘a dick a dick a dada.’ When he was 2, the doctor referred him to early intervention. Yet at 3, he had memorized all the license plates of our neighbors, but was very delayed in potty training. Nothing matched all the criteria.”
Gage was born two and one half years later.
“We noticed a lot of things about Gage, but I saw it and denied it. Like a lot of stimming and spinning things on a rope right in front of his eyes. He opened and closed the cellar door a million times. He didn’t talk,” Kelly said.
When the couple had an evaluation done, they were told, “Your son has PDD-NOS, which stands for pervasive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified. In a nutshell, he has autism.”
“I think I cried for six or eight weeks; it’s like a knife in your heart,” Kelly said.
By the time their third son, Joel, was diagnosed with classical autism, Kelly had learned a lot. She decided that she would use her combination of research and personal understanding to help others. When Wayne was 7, she joined the Autism Resource Center in West Boylston. The center offers information on many issues and helps parents and professionals to make educated choices for what’s best for each child.
“Sue Loring runs the center and gives you a direction and a package of what you need to do,” Kelly said.
As Kelly became more of an activist, she relied more on the center and now serves as the vice chairman of the Family Advisory Board, which is made up of volunteers.
“We come up with ideas to help families with autistic kids. It’s a non-judgmental environment, and the center provides programs and activities for the kids and their families,” she explained. “My goal is to support other families living with autism. I donate my time, knowledge and experience to reach out to families that struggle with autism and to raise money to further its mission.”
The center has been a lifesaver in terms of resources and connections with others, she noted. From camps to cookouts, from group meetings to special activities during school vacations, the center sustains those impacted by autism.
Kelly has worked closely with the Shrewsbury schools to provide a supportive environment for her boys. She also currently serves as secretary for the Middle School Parent Teacher Organization. And her role as an advocate for kids with special needs has led her to take on more responsibility as the secretary of the Shrewsbury Special Education Parent Advisory Council.
This multitasking “Super Mom” works full-time in Natick, juggles many doctors’ appointments, and manages the car pools for gymnastics, karate, religious classes, a Lego group and a socialization group.
“I’m very positive. I have a lot of hope. My husband and I share the goal of bringing our boys to their fullest potential,” she said.
Yet with everything she does, her personal mission is to share her understanding and knowledge with others who are dealing with the challenges of autism.
“If someone is struggling and needs to find out more, I would be pleased to help them learn more; it’s OK to email me at email@example.com,” she said.
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