It’s never an easy thing to hear that your child may be autistic. It’s even harder when a parent knows something may be wrong but can’t find a simple answer as to why.
Joshua ‘Eli’ Turner was five-years-old when he was finally diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, which is a term used for people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” than other people diagnosed with autism. While a large number autistic persons are seen with IQ’s around 70 or less, Eli actually has an IQ of approximately 115. According to his mother, Rachel Turner, his form of autism is more of a social ailment than a “Rain Man” or “Gilbert Grape” scenario.
“We didn’t tell him until just a couple years ago because one we didn’t want him to use it to his advantage and two, we weren’t sure how too,” said Rachel. “What we did know was that he wasn’t one of those kids that liked to play with other kids and was always good either playing with his Thomas the Train or watching Elmo over and over again.”
According to Rachel, Eli’s form of autism is more a social ailment than anything else. However, Eli said his biggest challenge is math.
“When my mom first told me that I had Autism, I was shocked,” said Eli. “I didn’t know what it meant at first. Honestly, I was worried about others in the beginning cause I didn’t know if it was contagious or anything.”
Rachel said he went as far as to ask if he was going to die, partially because a family member had just passed away.
“He just didn’t understand what autism was or what it meant,” said Rachel.
But it was during his second 5K Walk for Autism when it finally hit home. When walking by a set of signs, there was one that stood out for Eli, “There is no cure for autism.”
“I read this and that’s when it hit that I would be stuck like this forever,” said Eli. “After that things kind of went downhill for me a bit.”
According to Rachel, that sign really seemed to hit Eli hard because shortly after he told her that more people need to be made aware of this ailment.
“Afterwards it all made sense. I was able to put the pieces together as to why I always seemed to struggle at things and it’s no secret, I do struggle,” said Eli. “I want people to know that those of us with autism aren’t different in a bad way, we’re just unique.”
In fact, one of his greatest subjects and what he currently aspires to be, is a writer.
“Right now I’m writing a book called ‘Ghostly Hounds,’ which was inspired by another book I read,” said Eli. “I even started a school newspaper last year.”
Eli went on to say that he doesn’t do these walks for just him, but for all that suffer from autism. According to him, he has been able to help raise $450.
“If a kid came up to me today and said they were just told they had been diagnosed with autism, I would tell them that it’s not a bad thing; it’s not a good thing but it’s far from being a bad thing,” said Eli.
Rachel said she’s lucky in the fact that Eli can express his feelings and tell her that he loves her, when there is a large number of those diagnosed with autism that can’t express any emotions what so ever.
“Pre-school was rough for us; things just kind of fell apart,” said Rachel. “Eli wanted to do what Eli wanted to do, getting him to interact with the other kids was just horrible.”
But what came over the next few years were small positive changes; less socialistic issues and tantrums. Although, Rachel states Eli still has meltdowns from time to time, he has had a great support staff at Elsberry R-II and with his IEP (Individual Education Plan).
“He does and can do anything that any other seventh grader can do,” said Rachel. “He will attend college and live a normal healthy life.”