The word “exciting” would be a definite understatement for expressing the course of events at where I work. After nearly six months of employment for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, I got the chance to share my knowledge of the disorder during an open house event attended by parents, practitioners and the press. When I wrapped up the presentation, I could hardly believe the vast number of attendees that stayed for an extra hour to have a word with me. I found myself spending the rest of the evening sharing ideas and advice with parents and professionals from a deep pool of backgrounds in the field of autism (something I truly enjoy doing).
The reason I’ve agreed to write for Generation Rescue is something the mainstream majority has yet to understand about autism. There’s something in common I share with Jenny’s son, Evan, that’s almost nothing short of a mind-blowing coincidence. I too, I was diagnosed with autism when I was 2. My parents discovered the signs early on at 14 months. I displayed symptoms that most health professionals from that time and today would consider severe. I flapped my hands ritually, never gave eye contact to my family or peers and was nearly mute. Our child psychiatrist predicted the worst possible outcome for me in front of my parents, advising them not to get too attached to me, as I would most likely be institutionalized by the time I was ten.
Devastated beyond words, my mom and dad searched relentlessly for what little resources were available in the late 80’s. Imagine living in a period again with no internet and giant mobile phones with unreliable service. My family read everything on the subject and never gave up on their dream of my recovery. Several months after tiresome ineffective therapies, evaluations and diets, I showed little to no improvement. Just when my parents believed they were running out of precious time to save their son, a divine message came to them just when they needed one the most. My dad caught a news report about a breakthrough study released by the Dr. Ivar Lovaas that helped roughly 50% of its patients successfully defeat their autism and lead normal lives. He treated their conditions with the principles based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA); a work-intensive behavioral approach Dr. Lovaas proved to be highly effective in treating young children with autism.
With his clinic based in UCLA, our family immediately took the next flight from small town Minnesota to Los Angeles to get me evaluated by his dedicated team of therapists and program supervisors. In only a few minutes, I was perfectly demonstrating activities as seen from typically developed kids my age. At that exact moment, my family knew their long search for a real solution to my problem had ended. After eight short months of intense treatment and two years of infrequent outpatient therapy, I was caught up with the same developmental level as my peers. I began elementary school shortly after and excelled in class without the need of a teaching aid. A brilliant young woman, who worked with Lovaas on the historical study, led my assessment and therapy program. Inspired from her years of work with children dealing with similar cases and after receiving her PhD in Psychology in 1990, she established a small clinic the same year, dedicated to providing the only the most effective treatment to families affected by ASD. This event marked the birth of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, more commonly known as CARD.
With nineteen offices spanning across the continental U.S. and two international locations, the world’s most influential autism treatment provider currently treats over 1,200 clients with a working staff of over 700. Celebrating its 20th Anniversary last year by spreading autism awareness through fundraising events held across its office locations, CARD has deserved every ounce of its success. The remarkable results demonstrated from its clients after are solid proof of that. Children who could not respond to their parents or participate with their peers have been given the precious gift of a potentially successful and happy life.
Being given the privilege to work for CARD as a spokesman for autism recovery has been a real blessing and I hope to provide the same uplifting inspiration to the autism community as my family shared during those turbulent years early in life. Now that I’ve been asked to represent Generation Rescue through my writing and speaking, I will be looking forward to this very exciting career opportunity and spread the message to audiences that have yet to hear about my story as well as Jenny’s. Thanks for the remarkable offer.
Joe Mohs is a determined and creative individual whose life can be defined as a success story. Having recovered from severe autism at the age of four, he is now the founder and co-owner of Living Proof, an inspirational web organization dedicated to addressing that recovery from autism is possible, as well as any personal or family crisis. Joe has spoken publicly about his life before and after autism at a number of venues across his home state, Minnesota, as well as California.