Family speaks about raising loved one with autism

September 26, 2010 7:41:07 AM PDT
Every family has its ups and downs, and that includes families who have a child with autism, but for them, there are different challenges. A west suburban family opens up to ABC7 Chicago about raising their son.

Bruce and Kathy Simpson have two daughters ages 24 and 21 and a son, Kevin, who is 18. He was diagnosed with autism at an early age, and he also has other disabilities.

"Kevin has cerebral palsy. We've had some major issues with his feet. He's had surgeries. His speech was very delayed," said Kathy Simpson.

"He has hypnotic, he has low muscle tone, he's has a swallowing disorder," she said.

For the Simpson family, raising Kevin was not easy.

"When he was very young, it was very hard. I think our girls suffered a little bit because our life revolved around his therapies. We tried very hard to get the girls to do what they needed to do to cope and be self-sufficient but it did take from that," Kathy Simpson said.

Kathy's life revolved around Kevin because he could never be left alone.

"Bruce's job had him traveling extensively. So, I would often be solo. It take has an economic impact it affects our marriage. It affected our children," the mother said. "We had a sitter, but as he got older, it became more difficult to get a sitter. How do you advertise for a babysitter for an 18-year-old? I mean he's got man parts. He's a man. So, I can't use a 16-year-old young lady to babysit him."

Kristen is 21 years old and a student at University of Illinois remembers what it was like growing up with her brother.

"Kevin was very quiet as a little kid. So, people didn't really understand him," she said. "When he throws a tantrum, when you're younger, when you're like 13 years old and you're a brand new teenager and your little brother's throwing fit in the parking lot in front of all your friends, you're humiliated."

Now, Kristen is older and understands her brother's situation.

"When he's having a bad day, just stay away from him give him space, and at the same time, you know we still don't get along. Sometimes, we have our quirks, and I love him, I do endlessly," she said.

Bruce says they have an unique father and son relationship.

"When I'm with Kevin, he and I are one-on-one and we do a lot of things that are kind of special between us. One of the things he likes to do is collect things that are kind of special to us. One of the things hes like to do is collect pocketknives," Bruce Simpson said. "He loves looking at cars. We can look at cars all day long. He love surfing for cars on the Internet."

The family felt it was better for Kevin not to be presented during the interview. So, we went to met Kevin at the museum where he was on a field trip. He's now at Giant Steps, a school for children with autism.

"I think he feels that he's finally found a place that he can be him," said Kathy Simpson.

They also have a respite care worker who they relay on significantly.

"And I'm telling you, our world is totally upside down when she's gone because it throws a wrench in our schedule," Kathy said.

In the meantime, the Simpsons take one day at a time as they conquer the challenges raising a child with autism.

"He can be accepted in the world for who he is because he's smart, he's funny, but he has a disability," said Kathy Simpson.

"He's both the joy of my life and the terror of my life, and thank goodness he makes me laugh so much because if I didn't laugh so much him I'd probably kill him some days," said Bruce Simpson.

To learn more about autism and Giant Step's school, visit www.mygiantsteps.org and www.autism-society.org.


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