Finding the Missing Puzzle Piece

April 24, 2015

When the puzzle with a missing piece became the symbol for autism, a more perfect representation could not have been made.

When the puzzle with a missing piece became the symbol for autism, a more perfect representation could not have been made.

After watching my son, Julian, live with high-functioning autism for 14 years, I totally see it. Everything seems just right, except for that one little part.

Believe me when I say I wouldn’t change a hair on my son’s head if I had the chance. It has taken 11 years of school, but my wife and I have a child who is now overseeing his education. While I used to quiz Julian relentlessly on science concepts and mathematical algorithms, I haven’t helped him much at all this year. He made the honor roll this quarter pretty much on his own.

It wasn’t always this easy. Over the years, tears were shed during homework hours among all of us. An hour’s worth of work would take Julian 4 hours to complete. Sometimes, we even had to wake him early because he would forget to do an assignment, and he had to get it done.

There was a lot of redirection and cueing from his teachers and parents over the years. Today, Julian still needs the occasional prodding to get something done, but things do get done.

With the exception of omega-3 fatty acid supplements, which have been documented to help autistic children focus more, my son has not taken a single medication to cope with his struggles. His accomplishments have been through hands-on parenting and some of the best educators in the fantastic North Pocono School District.

As a pharmacist, I have never been a fan of psychotropic medication use in children. While there are plenty who need them, I feel too many parents reach for them far too quickly. Sometimes, you just have to let kids grow into their personalities.

For years, my son’s pediatrician, Jeff Zero, DO, advised giving the kid a little time to catch up. No medicine has actually been the best medicine.

As an immunizing pharmacist, I see no connection between vaccines and autism whatsoever. Furthermore, I think more harm is done to children and the general population by not vaccinating kids. It’s time for the anti-vaxxers to put their pitchforks and torches away.

I would like to take a moment to thank Dana Cooper for being my son’s teacher and advocate for the past 3 years. My kid has grown up a lot in that time, and Dana played a big part in it. Thank you, Dana. We can never repay the debt we owe you.

For my son, the puzzle is a lot closer to being solved.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, believes in public education.