We Empower People and Families Living With ASD

AJ’S PIECE OF THE PUZZLE is a nonprofit dedicated to providing autism education, resources, and support through various programs and efforts. Read on to find out how we started.


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.

Home Program for Zero to Three Years Old

We were set up on a home program and had weekly visits from an occupational and speech therapist as well as an educator. AJ was enrolled in extracurricular parent/child social classes, sensory classes, and music classes with other kids also being evaluated.

Utilizing Every Available Intervention

Although he was not officially diagnosed, we opted for every and any intervention we could sign him up for. The intervention was recommended for his noted delays and behaviors.

We wanted to get our foot in the door for all the services because if and when he was officially diagnosed, there was a waiting list.

The Hurdle of Joining Autism Programs

Some facilities had lists as long as two years to be accepted into the autism program, which was a big obstacle that we faced. So, we religiously attended the facility that was referred to us for AJ’s interventions, while putting his name on the lists of other centers.

We were finally able to schedule a pre-autism evaluation with our original facility when he was 34 months old.

The Initial Evaluation

He was evaluated by a psychologist who stated AJ was exhibiting developing vocabulary, fairly good eye contact, emerging pretend play, and imitation. However, he also demonstrated several symptoms still consistent with ASD.

Continuing the Home Program and Other Classes

It was recommended that AJ continue with his program and transition from the zero to three years program to developmental preschool, outside speech and occupational therapist, and other classes that we were involved with through the facility.

We had a lot of information but still no official diagnosis, as his results indicated the need for further in-depth evaluation. But, as we became more aware of AJ’s behaviors, we felt like all the signs were pointing to him having ASD.

AJ’s In-Depth Evaluation

AJ was finally scheduled for the in-depth evaluation at the beginning of February 2015.

He was evaluated at two different appointments lasting over three hours each, where we also filled out countless forms that asked about milestones and behaviors.

That month seemed like years. Although we went in knowing it would be confirmed that AJ did have autism, as a parent, you still go in with hope.

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