Apr 11, 2014
09:02 AMHealth & Science
Old Saybrook Dad Writes Book on His Son's Triumph Over Autism
When Steven Yates’ son was born, he, his wife and 3-year-old daughter were overjoyed, and happy that he had been born healthy — all fingers and toes accounted for.
As the boy grew over the next two years, mom stayed home with the kids, dad went off to work as a civil engineer, big sister played her role and life went on smoothly. They were what Yates calls a “white-bread, two-parent stereotypical family.”
Shortly after the boy’s second birthday things began to change for the Yates family of Old Saybrook and their newest member. Some developmental milestones were not met; subtle differences emerged between this sweet toddler and their memories of their chatty daughter at the same age. Their long search for answers began with library research and an evaluation at a prominent child center which ended with a “diagnosis” of PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified). Today his son would fall somewhere along what’s known as the “Autism Spectrum,” which better accounts for the range of autism’s manifestations.
Yates wrote and self-published “Getting My First Hug” about his family’s journey and the role the medical community, educational and legal systems played over 20 years to help, or hinder, along the way.
“I want people to read it, see that there’s hope. Nobody could tell us what things would look like in five or 10 years, we didn’t know anyone like this. I want people to know that they’re not alone, and that there is hope,” the dad said.
Yates began this journey in the mid-1990s when not much information was available, the Internet was in its infancy, and autism was much more narrowly defined than it is today.
There are no real names in his book, other than his own, to protect his family’s privacy. When people do connect his son to the story, he often hears “I had no idea your son had special needs.”
Yates said his son “innately didn’t want to stand out, tried very hard to blend in, and he used scripts to communicate,” mimicking dialog from TV or stories he had heard.
Much of the book focuses on the educational system and how important parents are as advocates for their children.