A Mother’s Struggle with Her Son’s Autism
A shriek echoes from behind the apple stand in the Harris Teeter of Cary, NC. A little boy emerges, two half-eaten apples in hand. He seems to be looking right through his mother as she tries to take away the apples. His hands convulse and distort as he leaps up in the air and begins to run down the aisle. The boy’s name is Marcus O’Loughlin and he was diagnosed with severe autism at age three. In the five years since his diagnosis, his mother, Erin O’Loughlin has worried, as many parents do, about his future. He is fully dependent on her care, but she and her husband will not always be there to provide for him.
“We know in our hearts that our son is going to need assistance for the rest of his life,” Erin said. “Autism does not stop at age 18, it is not something you grow out of.”
In North Carolina, one in every 70 children is diagnosed with autism. This statistic is increasing and, on a national scale, has already reached one in every 88 children. In the next decade, these children will become adults who are expected to contribute to society. Because autism diagnoses are placed on a spectrum, there will be a few who will be able to maintain menial jobs, but most will not even be able to care for themselves as their parents and caretakers age.
“Oftentimes my son will retreat into his own little world when he becomes over-stimulated,” Erin said. “I never know what is going to set him off.”