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How a child changed my world view

As the West Georgia Autism Foundation is gearing up for the First Annual Fundraiser in January 2019, members of the board of directors have been asked to tell their story about how they became involved. Here is my story — the good, bad and the transformation inspired not by someone I looked up to, but a small boy.

On Dec. 18, 2005, a truth that would change my worldview arrived. Jason W. Swindle Jr. “Jake” was the first child my wife and I were blessed with. By the time he was 2, I had already planned where we would hunt together in the future, what position he would play in football and what type of law would be best for him to practice. He was just a smaller version of me. He would “succeed” in areas where I believed I fell short. Right?

Early 2009 — Jake and I are going to the hunting camp, spending time in the yard and playing with the football. But, he is not talking. Family members start to wonder why. I knew that Jake must be stubborn and would talk when he was ready. There was no reason to research anything.

Late 2009 — Family members begin to suggest that Jake be tested for autism. Autism? Jake? As the days passed, I noticed that Jake was still not verbalizing back to me when I tried to speak to him. One night, my wife grabbed my shoulders and said, “Look here. Our son is getting tested. So, change the attitude and get with the program.” I finally gave in. Jake was diagnosed as having high functioning autism, or what is commonly known as “Asperger’s.” At first, I did not accept the diagnosis. We needed a second opinion. How could they know at such a young age? This was unacceptable.

One day, my mother called. She is a nurse and very familiar with autism. She said, “Jake (which is what I was called as a child) why are you so afraid? Your son is autistic. You can either accept it and be the best father you can be or run from the reality like a coward.”

My mother got my attention. Jake is 12-years-old now. I love him and his little brother, Reagan, more than anything in the world. His healthy development has been made possible by God, therapists and his courage. 

Little does he know that he has already taught me more about life and the true definition of success than any person I have ever met. Jake inspired me to start the WGAF. God instructed me to help the autistic children who suffer from the lack of resources to fund critical treatment, create awareness and provide education about the number one challenge our state faces in the near future.