At one year old, Brigitte Curry-Broyard’s noticed that her son Trey was not babbling, talking or making sounds. He was not even trying to talk. He was a good baby, but she felt something was not right.
Her intuition kept telling her something was wrong, even though everyone around her told her she was overreacting.
“Boys are slower than girls. That’s why he’s not talking,” they all said.
Trey still was not speaking at 18 months. Then he was two years old and still not speaking.
Broyard began to act. She started with getting Trey’s hearing checked out; then came testing for genetic disorders to make sure there was no chromosomal defects or condition.
Time continued to pass. There had been a long journey to get to the diagnosis. Broyard started going back and forth to different doctors when they finally went to see a developmental pediatrician who in 2005, diagnosed Trey with autism. He was four years old at the time of the diagnosis.
Autism or autism spectrum disorder is a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication according to research. There are many types of autism caused by genetics and the environment.
“Autism is a spectrum of disorders, ranging from severe, mild, or moderate, where one can be highly verbal, or have a social skills deficit, to the non-verbal form or moderate form, which Trey has,” Broyard said.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), boys are more likely than girls (one in 42 boys vs. 1 in 189 girls) to get the disability.
Trey uses an iPad to communicate with his family, using an app called Proloquo. It is a voice-output app that will speak for you once you type something in.
Trey can do certain things on his own, like feed himself and use the restroom. He also has self-help issues where he needs assistance with things, like tying his shoe or buttoning his shirt.
Trey attends Westlake High school where he takes part in a community-based instruction program, similar to a school within a school. There are 20 kids who all have some type of disability.
He receives nurturing in the specialized classes through the program from Monday through Thursday. He also has electives where he can interact with his other peers.
Trey’s school program allows him to stay in school until he is 22 years old and offers a lot of vocational skills. Every Friday, the program takes students from his class out into the community to help them navigate in everyday life. For example, they go to the grocery store and to the mall.
Broyard felt a sense of relief after Trey’s diagnosis, after having gone for years of trying to figure out what was wrong with her son. She finally had an answer.
“I knew there was a direction I could go in,” she said. “Autism was out there in 2005, but people were not talking about it and the internet did not have a lot of information.”
Broyard went to developmental pediatricians for help and went to psychologists and to conferences to get info. She moved her family to California because at the time, California was more advanced than Georgia regarding treatment and care for Trey, including applied behavior analysis and formative education.
Her family is now back in Georgia, where she feels Georgia has really progressed regarding information and treatment for autism. She has had to put Trey on a special diet due to gastrointestinal disorders, causing diarrhea, etc. Trey does not eat processed food, gluten, dairy, or wheat food items.
Trey has never once told his mother that he loves her, but deep down, she says she knows he does. Having a conversation with him is very difficult due to the device/app.
Broyard said she feels like God chose her to be Trey’s mom and that it is not an easy task. “It requires faith, patience, and being selfless,” she said. “The relationship we share is non-verbal. It’s amazing and it’s made me stronger and changed my life for the better.”
Broyard is making a difference in the community by going to various conferences on autism and getting informed. She is a supporting parent with Parent to Parent of Georgia, an advocacy group where she teaches parents how to be a parent of a child with special needs.
“I’ve always tried to speak to Trey as if he understood what I’m saying,” she said. He is smart, competent, and he has a different ability.”
Broyard said Trey learns differently, thinks differently, and he acts and processes things differently. She’s hopeful and that is why she likes helping other parents by turning a negative into a positive. “You feel more comfortable and relaxed and that makes your child more comfortable and relaxed,” she said.
Broyard’s hope for Trey is that he will be able to live on his own eventually and live a positive productive life. She hopes they will find a cure for autism one day. Hopefully, research can help uncover what causes autism, as the rates are very high.
“You have the ability to set the course for your child’s life simply by what your belief for them is,” said Broyard. “My goal is to help him find his way in this world, whether that’s living with me or he’s living in a group home. I’m fine with it.”
April is World Autism Month. For more information, visit www.autismpeaks.org.