The Beginning of Our Family’s Journey
AJ was three years and seven months old when he was officially diagnosed with ASD on February 26, 2015. Before this, we were referred to an autism clinic and were advised on what we needed to do, as he was too young to be evaluated for an official diagnosis.
The Official Diagnosis
We brought a friend who stayed with AJ in the waiting room while we had our appointment, as we lived in Seattle away from any family. The psychologist started with her pleasantries and how well AJ was doing, then came the “but.”
It was then that AJ was officially diagnosed with autism. The next few seconds after the words were spoken were like a gut punch that takes your breath away, followed by the realization that everything has changed, but nothing has.
AJ as a Young and Active Kid
AJ is a brilliant, fun-loving boy who has taught us so much and continues to teach us every day. He loves art, music, swinging, and spending time with the family.
He also has an amazing memory, a great sense of humor, and a heart that is so pure and loving. AJ dreams of one day going to college, becoming a chef with a restaurant of his own, being a Karate Sensei, and getting married and having a family of his own. He is also busy with school, therapy, camp, and multiple extracurricular programs.
AJ’s Interventions and Education
His interventions have been nonstop since he was 18 months old, and his overwhelming progress is pure evidence of their importance.
AJ has achieved significant progress in school, which is the result of all his hard work, continuous interventions, advocating for his IEP to best support him, along with all the supportive teachers, staff, and therapists he is surrounded by daily.
We expose him to life just as we would have had he been never diagnosed. Some things can be more challenging, but with patience and time, obstacles always seem to be overcome.
Adapting Well and Having Independent Skills
AJ is a seasoned traveler of all modes. He loves going to events and sometimes uses headphones for louder functions, but he is also phasing that out. We have overcome many social obstacles by continuing to expose him to society from grocery stores and social functions to outings as big as his favorite place Disney.
I can’t say they all went smoothly the first or even twentieth time, but now he can comfortably enjoy the interactions of most everyday living. He is simply just a typical boy who approaches social situations a bit differently and sees the world in its literal sense.
A Work in Progress
AJ enjoys many extracurricular activities with some of his favorites now being Karate, Choir, and running to name a few. He also has a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) which is a challenge he is always working on overcoming.
Despite sleep studies and intervention, AJ also has difficulty sleeping. Both ADHD and the inability to adapt to a normal sleep routine are commonly seen in children with ASD.
AJ has finally found a routine and natural intervention to help him sleep through the night after 9 years. This without a doubt has been one of his biggest struggles which we are all so happy to have almost overcome.
Serving as Parents and Advocates
Our role in all this has been to be loving, patient, and understanding parents who are also his number one advocates in every endeavor. With AJ’S PIECE OF THE PUZZLE, we hope to be educators, philanthropists, and voices who can offer help to those in need.
Paying It Forward
Over the years, we have raised money through other 501(c)(3) charities, choosing 4 programs and many individuals.
Realizing that autism advocacy would become a lifelong passion of ours, we incorporated our own 501(c)(3) (Tax ID #833477766) to allow us to distribute micro-scholarships to other children with ASD.
This will help them obtain services they may have never had the opportunity to previously access and help them participate in programs, such as ABA, speech, occupational therapy, vision therapy, sports, camps, and countless other interventions.
Providing Opportunities and Resources
Not all children and their families have the financial capability, knowledge, or support to access all the services and interventions that we were fortunate enough to have had.
The programs that provide interventions for children with ASD are always in need of materials, equipment, and funding to help keep them available to the ASD community.
Thus, we will work with other charities in the ASD community and provide opportunities for the invaluable volunteers in most of these programs with micro-scholarships to attend educational, recreational, and other types of interventions.
Offering the Help or Support That Other Parents Need
We assist people and families regardless of background. Anyone who comes to us for any form of aid, from something as simple as buying sensory toys to buying a GPS watch for kids who wander, can rely on us to give support.
Let’s Work Together To Serve the ASD Community
We want to help people with ASD and provide them with the opportunities that AJ has had. To show your support, you can donate to AJ’S PIECE OF THE PUZZLE.
Your support and contributions are greatly appreciated. We can also give you a tax write-off for paying it forward. Please check with your employer, as many businesses will match donations to such causes attached to a 501(c)(3).
With hope and appreciation, AJ, Janel, and Tony Nucci