A Spectrum of Challenges: Autism in Amarillo

Jason BoyettComment

For the April issue of Amarillo Magazine, I had the honor of talking to a couple of local families whose children are on the autism spectrum, along with the parent-led organization that works with these families. An excerpt:

“If you’ve met one child with autism, then you’ve only met one child with autism,” says Tiffany Coto, whose son, Christopher Wilborn, had the same developmental delays and frequent breakdowns as Lucas. “When I tell someone he’s autistic, they always say, ‘He doesn’t look autistic.’ But what does an autistic kid look like?”

Unlike, for instance, Down Syndrome, autism doesn’t have a physical component visible in a child’s appearance. Instead, it impacts their behavior, communication and social skills. “You could see three different kids [with autism] in one day and you’d never know until you interacted with them,” says Coto.

The two moms I spoke to for the article both commented about how heartbreaking it can be when autistic kids have breakdowns in public, often triggered by sensitivities to light, sound, or motion that researchers are only beginning to understand. The parents are often glared at, or told they just "need to give that kid a good spanking." That's why many autistic families start going out in public altogether. It can be incredibly isolating.

Be kind, everyone.