Autism Awareness: A Guide for Parents
August 26, 2014
by Margena A. Christian
When Shawn Stockman and his wife, Sharhonda, first learned Micah, one of their fraternal twin boys, was autistic at age 2, Shawn’s first response was denial. “I didn’t want to think that something as severe as this had happened to my own kid,” says the singer from the Grammy Award- winning group Boyz II Men who’s a judge on TV’s The Sing-Off. “It was a devastating blow to have this happen to my son. He’s my oldest by two minutes; my heir apparent. I would cry occasionally; I kept it moving because I had to be strong for my family.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) "is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior,” according to the National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Autism is the fastest-growing yet most underfunded developmental disorder, according to the National Autism Association; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that boys are four times more likely than girls to have ASD, which affects one in 68 children. Some signs might include the child not responding to his or her name, not babbling or pointing by age 1, not making eye contact, excessive lining up toys or other objects, losing language and social skills and failing to smile or show social responsiveness.
The Stockmans, who've been married nearly 13 years, didn't respond to the signs as soon as they should have because of lack of knowledge. Micah is now 11, and his parents work to help others not make the same mistakes. “We didn’t think it could happen to us,” says Sharhonda. “Don’t be secretive about it. If something is wrong, get the child checked out. The earlier someone is diagnosed, the quicker he or she can get treatment. I wish I’d had the intellect to listen, but I was sad, angry and ashamed. I was still trying to figure it out. I didn’t tell anyone about him because I was trying to understand what was taking place.”
The causes of ASD aren’t certain and there’s no cure, although it’s treatable with educational/behavioral interventions, medications and other therapies. “I believe that everything happens for a reason,” says Shawn. “God doesn’t put anything on us that we can’t handle.”
The Stockmans raise awareness through Micah’s Voice (micahsvoice.com).