WILLIAMSON - One Mingo County family understands firsthand what it means to have a child diagnosed with Autism, and of the hardships loved ones go through while learning to cope with the disorder.
For Judith and Jeremiah Stepp, the parents of Silas, a four year-old with a contagious smile and bright eyes, a decision was made to share not only their experience with the public but to use their circumstance as an initiative to raise funding for medical research they’re hoping will one day lead to a cure.
Below you will read the story of Silas, as told in the words of his mother, Judith:
“My name is Judith Stepp, and I want to tell you my son’s story…I call it Silas’ story - because he isn’t able to communicate and tell it himself.
On a cold, snowy January morning, I gave birth to a perfect, beautiful, healthy 6lb. 4oz., hazel eyed boy. That perfect little angel that I fell in love with immediately was named Silas. Little did I know that gorgeous bundle of joy would forever change my life.
As months passed, Silas went to regular check-ups with his pediatrician, hitting all milestones set for his age group each and every time. This beautiful baby was growing into a constantly smiling, rambunctious toddler before my eyes. However, in October 2011, I started seeing changes in Silas’ behavior and his developmental ability started to slowly regress.
At first his father and I weren’t concerned and thought that the birth of his twin brother and sister had caused this developmental regression. Months passed by, and the few words Silas had been saying stopped. I noticed his behavior and mood was changing drastically, too. His “temper tantrums” would exceed above and beyond. My sweet angel who loved to be held, rocked, and kissed was turning into someone completely different.
Silas was diagnosed with moderate to severe Autism/Mental Retardation on April 4, 2012. That day will forever be etched into our memories. When my husband and I received the diagnosis, we were heartbroken, but we stayed optimistic. When Silas was 31 months old, his cognitive developmental was the same as 7 month-old; his adaptive behavior was the same as a 14 month- old; his social/emotional developmental was the same as a 13 month-old; and his communication development was the same as an 8 month-old.
His father and I were told it was doubtful Silas would ever communicate with others and his physicians predicted he would remain non-verbal and would never be able to fully interact with us. The psychologist tried to prepare us by saying our little boy would always be “different” and it was unlikely he would ever voluntarily give us a hug or a kiss, or show affection.
After hearing that discouraging news, we started intense speech, occupational, and developmental therapy, which he still receives today. His total developmental state has improved greatly! Silas is now communicating with us daily through not only sign language, but with small words. Our beautiful son that we were told would never be affectionate towards us now demands a “kiss” every night before going to bed.
I don’t know how much the public knows about Autism, so I’ll share a few facts. Autism in not an illness or disease, nor is it contagious. Autism is a disorder affecting the ability to communicate, understand language, play and interact with others, and the functioning of the brain. Statistics show that 1 in 88 children (1 in 56 boys), suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorders, making it the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. Due to the lack of resources in our area, children are going undiagnosed and/or misdiagnosed daily. There is no known cure for Autism and the cause is still unknown.”
Sials’ parents, along with family members and friends, are planning to hold Mingo County’s “First Annual 5K Walk for Autism”. Judith told the Daily News that it will be an amazing, fun, family event complete with inflatables. She stated that Deana Sue Bartoe will be there to do face painting for the kids and Homer Mullins, with Hitman Entertainment, has graciously volunteered his time to DJ the event. Live entertainment featuring Mountain Station, a band from Huntington is also scheduled to take place.
“Through this event we will be spreading autism awareness to our community about this growing epidemic affecting our children,” remarked Judith. “All proceeds of the walk will be donated to The West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University, which is a not-for-profit organization serving the needs of those residing in our state with Autism Spectrum Disorders, their families and their educators. All donations will be used to support their education and training for work in our local area.”
In order to make this event successful, the event founders are asking for help from local community members, as well as businesses. Judith remarked that invitations have been extended to several elected state and county officials as well.
The Mingo County First Annual Walk for Autism will be held on April 27th, 2013 at the Williamson Field House. Registration will begin at 10 a.m.
“I’m asking all leaders, whether in your home or in your work place, to step up and form a team for this great cause,” said Judith. “We are still accepting donations and sponsors. With a child being diagnosed every 27 minutes with this crippling epidemic, it’s crucial we get the community educated about Autism awareness.”
If anyone has questions about the event, would like to volunteer to help or want to make a monetary donation, you may contact Judith at 304-426-1222. The event planners also have a Facebook page they want to encourage everyone to visit, which can be accessed by typing in https://www.facebook.com/events/248563478610891/?fref=ts.