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How an Autistic Child Changed A Career For the Better
Often, career choices are made based on positions, compensation, or prestige that an entrepreneur would trade for higher pay, more positions, or prestige. What about the situation where the driver who chooses the job is none of these; Where are the child’s needs that drive change? My decision was the same.
Trevor was a happy, normal, active baby. She could laugh, cry, cry, and do all the other things her big sister, Briana did at that age. For me and my wife Patty, everything seemed fine. At about two years old, we noticed that Trevor wasn’t saying any words and was a fan of his world of pictures, drawings, and videos. Over the next few years, we took him to a speech therapist to help him with his language and enrolled him in a school for special needs children. At this time we saw some unusual behavior for a small child; a strong desire for order (his school teachers called him “Mr. Rigid”), excessive revision in various subjects, and no real desire to interact with other children. However, Trevor was easy because he could keep himself busy for hours by playing alone and doing whatever he could think of. It was very confusing for us.
When Trevor was five years old, we took him to experts at the Autism Center at the University of Washington who did several tests to assess speech, cognition, and relationship behaviors. At the end of the evaluation, one of the experts determined that Trevor had Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), a mild form of autism. This was unusual for us because we associated autism with extreme cases (think of Dustin Hoffman in “Rainman”) when speech was completely absent and there was no real connection between the child and others. Trevor was able to talk and socialize but was about two years behind his peers in development. The expert explained that, although Trevor had many of the behaviors of “normal” children, he saw the world as if he were peering through a printed newspaper; he only thought about the world and was not interested in things that he was not interested in or how other people saw him. To give you an example, think of Jack Nicholson in the movie “As Good As It Gets”. His character, Melvin Udall, was a handsome, successful writer who was obsessed with cleanliness, kept a strict schedule, never walked in the cracks of the sidewalk, and often didn’t know how to walk with others. Although not labeled as such, Melvin could have PDD-NOS.
In some ways, learning that Trevor had autism was a relief because he was able to learn to control his behavior and become a successful adult. However, in some ways, having autism puts him in a kind of purgatory when it comes to other kids. He is not in the category of special needs but he is very special compared to other children. If Trevor had grown up in the 90s, his actions would have been seen as a behavior problem and he would have been called a problem child. The truth is that Trevor is not a character problem; they are wired differently than normal children.
Trevor’s elementary school was amazing to work with; qualified for special services and was able to receive one-on-one support with a special education teacher. Although we have been very appreciative of the attention that the public schools give him until the 6th grade, we were very affected by his transition to elementary school. Through much discussion, we have decided the best thing for Trevor is to move him out of mainstream school in seventh grade and into a homeschooling approach. With this in mind, Patty and I decided that, in order for Trevor to have the best chance at success, we needed to share the coaching responsibilities. I spent eleven years at Accenture and I was in my ninth year at Microsoft and I was very happy with my work. At the same time we also realized the importance of providing Trevor with the highest level of education so that he could live a normal adult life. We decided it was best for me to leave my secure, full-time job at Microsoft to pursue a new career that gave us the flexibility to start loving Trevor. It was at the same time that I had written a book called The Project Management Advisor which was in the process of being published. I had just started a home delivery business called delBistro with a friend. The time seemed right for him to take action and leave Microsoft to create a new career as a writer and entrepreneur by making sure that Trevor gets what he needs to lead a normal adult life.
The last six months have been focused on me adjusting to my new job as a writer and entrepreneur and we have started researching how to get Trevor home schooling. I’ve already seen the benefits to my family and Trevor getting used to being around more often. I have more peace with the career choices I have made and consider Trevor’s attention to be more important than any promotion or honor I would have received at Microsoft or any other traditional job. Our goal is to make sure that, by September, we will be homeschooling Trevor and that my work will not interfere with our homeschooling. By the way, Trevor’s butterfly sister has already said that homeschooling is not her cup of tea so she will be in public schools.
I realize that a decision like the one I made when you have an autistic child is not always possible. We are very blessed to have the money and opportunity to make this decision. What I can say, however, is that Trevor’s future investment will bring more benefits than any I would have going into a traditional career and consider this the smartest decision I’ve ever made.
See part 2 here http://EzineArticles.com/10078696
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