Friday, June 10, 2011

It's Been Too Long...

My life is very busy, and I have not paid enough attention to this (or my other) blogs over the past few months. It is my hope that I can write at least once a week going forward on each. I love to write, it is almost therapy for me. I wish I had more time.

But it is the reasons that I don't have time that I love. I love my family more than anything in the world, and I love my job. My job is very demanding and takes up a lot of time, and my family - well - about the same.

We are the proud parents of four beautiful children. Two boys, and two girls over the past 10 years have come into our lives, and have blessed us greatly.

Chandler, our oldest was the first to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. As he began to crawl, then walk, we failed to notice the tell all signs of Autism. It wasn't until his little sister joined us that we realized that there could be something different about our son.

Chandler was diagnosed just before his fourth birthday, and the time since (six years) have brought us many blessings and many challenges. I have learned more and have shared in more life enlightening experiences during that time than in any other time in my life. Chandler has taught me so much about what it is like to be different, and I am forever grateful for the lessons that he has brought to me.

During a weekend trip to Chicago a couple of years ago, the light "switched" for Spencer. Our third child, second boy, he was and outgoing talking machine. He was speaking in full, wonderful sentences, and would carry on conversations with me that were well beyond his age.

Over that three day stretch, I remember like it was yesterday telling my wife:

"Watch Spencer, it's happening again."

By the end of the weekend, he wasn't speaking in sentences anymore. He was making noises that were out of the ordinary, and we were about to find out that Autism has become a part of our lives twice in just a few years.

While all of this has been going on, and we have received wonderful treatment for our boys, the girls had never really shown any signs of being on the spectrum. When they would occasionally act out, or do something their brothers would do, we dismissed it as "learned" behavior, because either that made the most sense to me, or I just didn't want to see the obvious.

Over the last ten months, Alyssa (7), has started exhibiting signs of being on the spectrum. She can no longer go to games in the arena that I work in because the crowds are too loud. Things that never scared her before she is deathly afraid of. She is acting out in ways that she never did before, and recently sensory has become a big part of her life. We are going to be taking her to a doctor soon, but I think we all know what's coming.

My youngest daughter Kady is next. She just turned three and is now showing some of the same signs that her sister and older brothers have. Kadys' is not very pronounced - yet - but it's there, and having gone through this three times now, it's time for me to open my eyes and see what is happening in front of me. My fourth child, one that I never thought would be impacted by this other than what she sees with her brothers is probably on the spectrum.

Four for four.

I speak to support groups a number of times a year, with my specialty topic being "THE FIRST DAY," which I hope to write a book about soon, discusses what it is like to get the news that your child, who looks perfectly normal and yesterday may have acted as such, has just been diagnosed with something that will make him or her different. Something that will bring bullies to the table for the first time, something that may cause them to be called the "R" word.

I am often asked how I dealt with it. I didn't do well. I am a very emotional man, and when you are told that your son is going to be different from others, it is natural to be upset. I cried a lot. I didn't know what to do about it. All I knew is that I could not help him (immediately) and I didn't like not being in control.

Then we got the news again.

And now I wait again for what I know is coming. Two more first days.

If you are a Father and are coming to this blog for the first time because you just happened to google "Father Autism", your life has probably just changed forever.

I am hear to tell you that no matter the struggle, no matter the challenge and no matter the issues that you are about to be impacted by, your life changed for the better today.

Spend the time with your son or daughter and get to know the disorder. Begin to understand the specific parts of the disorder that impacts your family. Have your child teach you how to cope with the behavior issues that you are about to realize.

There are so many resources available in every market in the country.

What surprises me the most is the high level of divorce that is caused because our children are different. I can understand the stress it puts on a family, but my wife and I have used it as a unifying experience. We work together to ensure our children have the best opportunities in life. We make sure that the kids have everything they need, that they get to therapy, that we are both at school conferences and IEP meetings.

My wife is my hero because of her drive and determination to ensure that both Chandler and Spencer receive the services they deserve, and grow up to be respectable young men. Melinda's impact on our boys lives is evident because they are growing up to be such great boys. They are a direct reflection of their mother, and because of our working partnership, the boys have the best chance for success. She is my hero, and I know she is their hero.

If I am about to have two more first days (and I bet I am), I look forward to the challenge. I am excited to learn what is next for our family. Change is very difficult for these children, and we are moving again for my job - so the next few months are going to be difficult for the kids anyway.

I just hope that I am up to the task. I know my wife will be, and that support is enough to sustain me through this next chapter.

Cory Howerton
Father of Two Autistic Boys
Melinda's Husband

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I finally found a house, and the family will be here in a week. I can hardly wait to have everyone here in Ohio with me, and we can get back into our routine again.

I am in need of a routine just as much as they are. The last five weeks have been awful for me - and them - for different reasons, but they are intertwined.

I called today and talked to Spencer, and shared with him some details about the new house. the only thing that he was really concerned about was the door.

The front door.

He could care less that there is a very cool "secret passageway" in his room-to-be that leads to the attic, where I imagine the boys will spend a lot of time hiding from their parents.

He wanted to know what the front door looked like. So, I took a picture and sent it via my phone, and he was satisfied.

It was a simple reminder of how my little man sees and wonders about things. Most boys his age are concerned about the neighborhood, the back yard, the play room, or a new bike.

He simply wanted to know what the door looked like. I can't wait to watch him walk through it, to hold him and the rest of my family again.

I am excited to get back to our daily, boring routine - which the boys in our family so desperately need. Together again, one family, fighting the fight, and raising our children the only way we know how.

One day at a time.

Can't wait to see you Spencer. Can't wait for you to see the door for the first time in person.

Welcome home.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Early Detection is Critical

I am blessed to have two children on the spectrum.

With the oldest, we had no experience with autism, and had no idea what we were looking for. I thought it was completely normal that children lined up and organized their matchbox cars by color and type.

I had no idea that other children didn't like the feel of their pants, or that tags in shirts "hurt them".

On the contrary, when Spencer began to show signs of being on the specter, we knew it immediately. We watched him regress over a 72 hour period. That's right - over a long weekend we watched our son, who was only three and speaking in full sentences, regress and by the time the weekend was over, we knew he was on the spectrum.

When I speak to groups about autism awareness, usually I am asked to speak about what I have titled "the first day."

The first day is the day you find out. The day you realize that your world has changed forever.

I have been blessed to have two first days. The second was a lot different than the first.

With Chandler, there was a lot of research, crying, wondering why this happened to our son, and to our family. We had just had our second child, a wonderful little girl, and we wondered aloud - could she also be autistic?

We mourned for a long period of time. We felt lost, wondered if we had done something during the pregnancy to cause this. We simply did not know what to do.

Spencer on the other hand was different. We still mourned, but after crying for ten minutes, we went to work in getting him the early intervention that is so critical.

Every child on the Spectrum is different:

"If you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism."
- Stephen Shore, adult with ASD.

ASD impacts three main areas of functioning: communication, socialization and behavior. However, behaviors and functioning can vary widely within and across individuals even if they have the same diagnosis.

John is a seven year old boy who received a medical diagnosis of autism when he was three years old. He does not speak, but uses gestures to make his needs known. When he is not understood, he shows frustration by squealing, throwing himself on the floor and crying. In school, he receives full day instruction in a classroom for children with autism. He can complete simple puzzles and match blocks by color when asked and supervised directly. John does not interact with his peers. He prefers playing alone and does not play with toys in the way they were intended.

Katy is an eight year old girl who was identified by her school evaluation team under that category of autism. After her identification at school, her parents took her to a children's hospital for evaluation where she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Katy is very verbal and attends a regular second grade classroom. While she can read words at a sixth grade level, her comprehension skills are at a first grade level. Her teachers report that Katy has difficulty interacting with her classmates. She loves to talk about spiders and bugs and has begun her own bug collection. She continually tries to dominate conversations with her peers around the topic of bugs. Katy does not realize that her peers are not interested when they walk away while she is talking.

While both of these examples have ASD, certainly their characteristics in the areas of communication, behavior and socialization vary greatly.

The following is a list of some common behaviors or characteristics you might observe in your child.


* Difficulty in expressing needs (may use negative behavior instead of words);
* Laughs, cries or shows distress for reasons not always apparent to others;
* Delayed speech or no speech at all;
* Has difficulty processing language (may not understand and/ or may take longer to respond);
* Echolaic - immediate or delayed repetition of words of another person (or television, radio, etc);
* Not responsive to verbal cues;
Does not use joint attention - showing or sharing something with another person, this is typically demonstrated by using eye gaze and gestures, particularly pointing, for social interaction.


* May prefer to be alone or appears aloof;
* Difficulty interacting with other children;
* May not want physical contact - cuddling, touching, hugging;
* Little or no eye contact;
* Difficulty initiating conversation or play with others;
* Acts or speaks in socially inappropriate manner (such as speaking too loudly or for too long).
* Difficulty interpreting facial expressions or body language;
* Difficulty understanding and interpreting emotions (self and others).

Behavior (this is the one I am asked about a lot)

* difficulty transitioning from one activity or settling to another;
* Tantrums or meltdowns;
* Spins and / or lines up objects;
* Inappropriate attachments to objects;
* Frequently walks on tip toes (toe walking);
* Stereotypic or self stimulatory behaviors - repetitive movement of the body or other objects such as hand flapping, rocking, flicking fingers in front of face;
* Restricted and persistent interests;
* Insistence on sameness; resistance to change;
Self injurious behaviors;

Other Areas

* Uneven gross / fine motor skills;
* Sensory processing issues; unusual responses to sensory input;
* Apparent over sensitivity or under sensitivity to pain;
* Noticeable physical over-activity or under-activity;
* Eats limited food choices and / or textures;
* Minimal awareness to physical danger;
* Wandering away.

Occurrence of Autism

The prevalence of ASD is increasing. In 2009, the centers for disease control and prevention and the US Department of health and human services reported the prevalence rate is between 1 in 80 and 1 in 240 with 1 in 110 children in the United States having ASD.

This wide range is the result of differences in the finding of various research studies. Based on these estimates, approximately 24,000 children born in the United States every year (assuming the ratio does not change) will have a diagnosis of ASD. There a re currently approximately 500,000 individuals, aged 0-21 with ASD in this country. ASD is more common that childhood cancer, Down Syndrome and juvenile diabetes combined.

Genetics Research and Autism

There is currently no known cause of ASD. During the past decade, scientists made significant breakthroughs in understanding the genetics of autism. Researchers are now focusing on specific chromosomal regions that may contain autism related genes. This has been accomplished by studying chromosomal abnormalities in individuals with autism and by screen each chromosome for evidence of genes associated with autism.

Current theory among autism genetics researchers supports the idea of "complex" inheritance. This means that multiple genetic factors are likely to be involved and may predispose an individual to develop autism. This theory also includes a role for environmental factors. that is, in addition to having a certain combination of autism related genes, exposure to specific environmental factors may be necessary for autism to develop in some individuals. For instance, if one version of a gene makes a person susceptible to a particular chemical, exposure to that chemical could trigger autism to develop. By focusing on the study of genetic factors and determining theory underlying mechanisms, researchers may be better able to pinpoint environmental factors that contribute to autism.

We need to raise funds. We need to further research. Important work is being done, and we all need to find a way to help and continue this great work.

Autism Notes:

Autism Speaks:

Collaborative on Health and Environment

Human Genome Project:;

Autism society of America:

Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence

Ohio department of education

Autism Society of Ohio

Monday, November 1, 2010

Understanding Where This Came From

I speak to groups about a variety of topics.

Sometimes I am asked to speak about sports marketing, the team I work for, our upcoming season or just our industry. Sometimes I speak about autism awareness.

I prefer to speak about autism.

When I was in fifth grade, I started a variety of testing. I remember going to hospital after hospital, therapist after therapist.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia, then ADD, and a few other things that I can't remember. Since I don't see words backwards, I was pretty sure that I wasn't dyslexic. ADD? yhea, I have that. What was I talking about again? Just kidding.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my boys are a lot like me when I was a child. Everything they do reminds me of me.

Where did this come from? Why are my boys on the spectrum? Turns out, it was a diagnosis that I was never told about. I am on the spectrum. Now, everything makes sense.

I see things in pictures - to me, that's normal. Don't you see things like that? No - you don't.

I remember obscure dates and places. I see them in pictures clearly as if they happened yesterday.

I remember having a conversation with my father in his bedroom when I was only 3. I remember a conversation with my mom in our living room when I was 5. Clearly - word for word, and I can see it.

I am obsessed with my profession. Being in professional sports is hard on a family, so a few years ago, I got out. That lasted about six months. I was obsessed with getting back into sports - couldn't stop thinking about it, and did everything I could to get a job.

I work day and night. I live, eat and breathe my job. I am obsessed with sports marketing, and have been since I

I am blessed that I can remember these events in my life. I am blessed with a memory that can recall stats at the drop of a hat. It is also a bit of a curse.

There is so much more.

When you think about the weekend, I see "tall buildings," I don't know why, but this became real for me when Chandler told me that he sees tall buildings when we talk about weekends.

When we watched Temple Grandin together, during the scenes when she "sees" things, Chandler explains to me that he sees the world that way. I didn't say anything, but so do I.

So Chan and Spencer, you are not alone. I made it through this, and so will you.

I have made the decision to seek therapy for the little things that I do which are caused by the disorder - I am obsessive compulsive about a number of things, and that needs some help. There are a few others too, and with this new information I will have the opportunity to correct some of my.......quirks.

This new information will not change who I am. I am a father of who has wonderful sons and daughters. I am a husband who loves his wife (another obsession -- don't think that has anything to do with autism). I am a person who cares deeply about autism awarness, and making sure that not only my children - but all children have an opportunity to have success in life away from home.

Chan and Spencer were given to me for a number of reasons. A diagnosis of my own is only one of them.

I thank them every day for the gifts they give me. I can't wait until we are reunited in Ohio.

Cory Howerton

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It has been too long

A lot has changed since I have last posted. Sometimes, life gets crazy, and things take a back seat. I promise to not allow that to happen again.

This cause is too important, the impact is too great.

Since my last post, I have accepted a job in Cleveland with the arena football team. I am very excited to be a part of such a great organization, to rebuild a popular brand in a town that loves football.

I have now been here for three weeks, and my family has yet to join me. It is the longest that we have ever been apart, and it is putting a lot of stress on our family - and the children.

We are also leaving behind a wonderful autism society in southeastern Wisconsin, and great schools.

What I have found in my short time in Cleveland, is amazing people - an Autism chapter at both the State and local level that is unbelievable. I am excited to extend my voice to help them raise funds, awareness and help treat children who desperately need it, and provide resources to families who are affected each day.

I have had the opportunity to already interact with the people in Ohio, and their quick action in turning around a meeting with me was more than impressive. I am excited to work with them going forward.

The next step is finding a home for our family in a school district that will take care of the needs of our children. This has been one of the most difficult assignments I have ever undertaken, not to mention I want to make it happen fast - I miss my family.

I will be posting more often - I am going to try once a week. We are going to do some good in Ohio, and I can't wait to get started!

Cory Howerton

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The way I see it...

My wife reminded me of something today.

I see things differently than other people. I am addicted to my work - no obsessed with it. I have spent my entire adult life perfecting my craft and not letting anything get in the way. Well almost anything.

I have a temper that frustrates me, and get enraged when people don't understand what I am trying to articulate. I got so angry a year ago, I went to great lengths to get my contract voided with my former employer - I hated them that much, I irrationally put my career on the line to leave in the middle of the season.

I have a hard time concentrating on a specific task that is not related to work (and even at work, my A.D.D. kicks in and my focus shifts).

My mother used to say "I hope you have a son just like you."

Turns out - I have two.

And that makes me wonder....Am I on the spectrum too? Could it be because of me that my two boys struggle in school, are obsessed with specific tasks and get angry easily? Is it because of me that they make irrational decisions and do things that at the time make sense to them, but in the end make no sense at all?

After talking about it, my wife and I decided that I would see a doctor and be tested. Maybe through this discovery, I will be a better husband and father, a better more engaged manager and employee and be able to help and understand my two boys better.

When my boys do things that people would label as strange, I think "I remember doing that." So it's possible I am taking this journey with them. That I understand more than I thought I did and that they have a little more in common with Dad than they had hoped.

What a journey this is. Just when I think I have learned something that will help them, it helps me. This will help us unlock some answers, and truly know if Autism is genetic, rather than a problem with immunizations.

I promise to write the story about Spencer and his unique way of discovering things, and I promise to be more consistent with my posts. I look forward to updating you with the doctors findings.

Cory Howerton
Father of two amazing boys on the autism spectrum

Thursday, May 13, 2010


We're moving.

Change is not good.

As we prepare to take our boys out of their schools and a place where they get fantastic services, I think a lot about how this is going to affect them short term.

About ten months ago, I left a job I hated to start my own company, and recently on a referral from one of my clients, I was offered an opportunity to pursue a dream - so I took it.

We are moving to a real city, with larger buildings, and things to do. A city with major league teams and summer activities that are not centered around corn.

I firmly believe that the boys are going to love the move, once we get there and get settled. I know that when they start school again next year, while it will be different, they will do fine. Making friends is always hard, but doing so when you are autistic is going to be a challenge - but as with everything else we do, we will get through it.

These boys are hard. Being a parent of one autistic son is difficult enough, but two is un-real.

When I speak to groups of autistic parents, especially those who have just found out that their child is on the autism spectrum, we talk about the "first day."

Your life changes when you get the diagnosis. In essence, it starts over. The first day is the hardest, and while it seems like it doesn't get any easier, it will. At least in most cases.

I meet people all the time that are having a difficult time with their autistic child. Sometimes the behavior is so out of control that parents need help from doctors, local agencies or other resources that are available - including medication.

Remember that you are their voice - you are their advocate - you are the person that loves them. Fight for them, and when you are tired - fight some more. Call the doctors a hundred times, and never give up. They are counting on you and if they will ever have a chance to be independent as an adult, you must fight for them now.

They analyze everything in a different way. We will never fully understand the challenges they face each day. But we must be strong, even in difficult times, and it will be difficult.

Some people will shun you. You might lose some friends. Nothing changes the fact that you are a great parent, with an amazing gift of a child. Never lose sight of that.

NEXT: Interesting interpretations of a young autistic child.