Autumn's Story

When you open the door to Autumn’s room, you enter into a world brimming with Sci‐Fi fantasy and images from the Harry Potter series. Autumn is a beautiful and spirited young woman, excited that high school is behind her and eager for the future to unfold. Her present eagerness stands in stark contrast to the dark emotions of much of Autumn’s early life. Allen and Linnie Howard discovered during her childhood that their youngest daughter’s development in some areas – particularly in motor and social skills – was slower than what they’d seen in raising two other children. Something was definitely different with Autumn, but how could they best describe it, and where could they turn for answers to questions they felt were unique to their experience?

Early testing led to a diagnosis of “ADHD and an anxiety disorder” as the root of Autumn’s difficulties. But as the Howards continued to work with behavioral specialists, it became clear that this was a misdiagnosis, as not only did Autumn not respond to the prescribed therapies, her distress became more and more severe. By the time she reached middle school age, Autumn was experiencing regular “melt downs” and crying daily at the thought of school. Allen and Linnie knew that something (anything!) had to change, for Autumn’s sake and for their own.

The light finally began to dawn through the blessing of one teacher, a very special person with whom Autumn had always “connected.” This insightful teacher suggested that Autumn’s behavior might be explained by Asperger’s Syndrome. The Howards had never heard of this malady, but that very same week, seemingly “from out of nowhere” they received an email from Allen’s alma mater, Texas Tech University, detailing the clinical characteristics of Asperger’s and other Autism Spectrum Disorders. Allen and Linnie immediately saw the parallels with Autumn’s behavior and sought out medical specialists who correctly diagnosed Autumn with Asperger’s Syndrome. In her fifteenth year of life, Autumn was now to begin a promising journey toward a normal, fulfilling future.

But of course, it wasn’t quite that easy. Autumn’s school initially refused to accept this diagnosis and persisted in labeling Autumn as “emotionally disturbed.” So Autumn was to struggle on until her tenth grade year when school officials finally accepted the Autism diagnosis. And only then, when specialized training to meet her specific needs began, did Autumn’s entire world begin to open up and her confidence begin to blossom. That confidence grew as she learned personal strategies to cope with her anxiety and culminated in her final year of high school as Autumn was named Student of the Month (an accomplishment she cherishes sharing to this day). Today, Autumn’s fondest hope is that she can help others to get the support they need, so that they do not have to experience the struggles she herself endured.

Every story should have such a happy ending – and yet the story remains unfinished… As the end of high school for Autumn loomed ahead, Allen and Linnie realized that her amazing progress would flourish only if Autumn received some form of supplemental assistance in helping her to prepare for life as an independent adult. For her to continue to grow in confidence and independence, Autumn would need ongoing support targeted at polishing the life‐affirming skills she has already been taught. With Autumn’s inspiration and encouragement as their guide, it is the Howard family’s hope and prayer that Autumn’s Dawn will provide that benefit – not only for Autumn, but for countless other young adults seeking a successful transition to new beginnings.