Skip to main content

Autism Diagnosis: Personal Journey Through Autism


“You Don’t Look Autistic.”

Andrew Gabriel December 2006, 4 years old Dad deployed: 2 weeks Recent doctor stated, “He doesn’t look Autistic.”

Andrew Gabriel December 2006, 4 years old Dad deployed: 2 weeks Recent doctor stated, “He doesn’t look Autistic.”

Autism Diagnosis: “Better Late Than Never?”

I don't know why it was literally impossible to get my son, Andrew, diagnosed and treated for Autism; he had every symptom under the DSM-4; except, he liked to gibberish talk to everyone that would listen.

In Texas we had settled in; but as the deployment was closing in on us, I was starting to have intense fear of my husband deploying. I hadn't gone longer then six weeks until he went to Army AIT school and that was only 3 months. I couldn't fathom a war and 12 months in one sentence and a whole year seemed a whole lifetime.

Even through our problems, we did everything 50/50 with our kids; we switched nights for dinner and dishes with baths and homework. Every weeknight we would have a show we watched together and every weekend we would go out or have friends over. I truly was going to be lost without him there and not to mention the kids.

When we moved to Texas and got settled on post, we decided that since Andrew was getting worse. We didn't have friendships that were built over a long period of time. Not friends that would do something like watch the child and not complain about it or neglect him. Not to mention he would be going to the “sandbox”. I needed to take a couple years off and do the stay at home mom thing because Andrew also needed constant supervision. I was kind of happy at first but, after a really short time, I knew it wasn't for me. Staying at home made me feel trapped. I felt like I lost my identity.

I had always been a very active and involved person going as far back as I can remember. The high school student who was on honor role, President of a club, in marching band, Varsity Cheer, Varsity Dance, Varsity Co-Ed Comp Squad while also holding a part-time job. The college kid who was in school FT and in ROTC and cheer. Part time job and a boyfriend hours away. That military wife and mom that took care of everything at home, was in college FT and had a FT job. I didn’t know how you could do the same thing daily and stay sane.

We decided that to combat that feeling of losing who I was, turning into “Sgt. Jays wife.” Andrew, Chey, and Dannys mom, that I would volunteer at the unit. So I became the Support Battlions Family Readiness Group Co-Leader. This helped me to build a network of other wives, the hope was that it would helo me through the Iraq deployment.

I was struggling with a deployment, no support network and family, not knowing what in the world to do next with my son. As it was, I had been forced into an overnight position of being the information source and sort of ombudsman like figure in their unit and what the Army calls an FRG leader; my New best friend had been in charge. Than during the company being in NTC out in California, she was arrested and sent back to the state that requested that she be sent back.

I hadn’t ever been involved in any ombudsman or family groups before and the amount of time I spent helping everyone else was already wearing on me. I was always dealing with soldiers wives suicide attempt, cps involvements, providing information to hundreds of soldiers and families, having meetings, going to certifications etc.

By the time my husband left for Iraq with 4th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade 4th Support Battalion, A Co in December of 2005; I was ignored many times by the pediatrician and was denied any referrals that would qualify us to take him to a specialist.

Behavioral health never even returned my call and he couldn't start pre-school because he was refusing to potty train.

It had been the most dramatic and eventful six months of my adult life and the only thing good at all in the experience of being an Army family (I was officially bias of Navy and Marines) was the fact that my husband and I had finally reached a point in our marriage. I could honestly say that I knew we would make it no matter what we had gone through. He was on Ad-Von which is a small group of soldiers sent a little early ahead of the main body and its Advanced Party. In fact, I had virtually no one there for me that night at one in the morning and no one else had spouses that left for ten more days.

It was going to be lonely that was for sure. I had only taken Danny with us. Our other two children their father said goodbye and kissed them good night. He had to do it alone as I had an FRG emergency come up, showing up to the house. I saw him crying and it was all I could to hold it together. That is what we do...we hold it together.

Its our job to keep our family up and running, to do what we do daily and also what our partner is leaving for us to do. I don't know why it seems that I was taking it too well but it did.

Until he was ready to board a white bus destined for a far away country at war. Realizing I only had a star to look up to at night knowing he looked at it to on the opposite side of the world.

I didn't want to let go.

I wanted to run and hide and forget he dragged me into Army nightmare on fort hood street; elm street with Freddy Kruger would have been more welcoming.

Scroll to Continue
Andrew (2004) 2 years old

Andrew (2004) 2 years old


Soldier 12-month Deployment and Leave

Sgt in the U.S. Army on his leave during a 12-month deployment. Leave: 2 weeks. Danny (7), Andrew (4), Cheyanne (2). Andrew was non-verbal and we had no way to have him understand the deployment.  With no diagnosis, no assistance to adjust and cope

Sgt in the U.S. Army on his leave during a 12-month deployment. Leave: 2 weeks. Danny (7), Andrew (4), Cheyanne (2). Andrew was non-verbal and we had no way to have him understand the deployment. With no diagnosis, no assistance to adjust and cope


My anxiety level was out of control and I was stressed out about everyone else‘s problems and not my own. I was told my a soldier in our unit; a single soldier that was barely a friend/acquaintance, someone that helped out at our meetings and I saw at my FRG Treasurer's house and lived with the people that ended up destroying my existence twice over. I felt like I was always in a manic state and was soon diagnosed bipolar and put on a medication called Depakote that I took with Paxil and Xanax.; soon I didn't feel right.

When the psychiatrist didn't listen to me I took my kids to their grandmother's and was definitely about to hit clinical depression not having any of my family . Truth be told the only thing I remember for a fact is a clear memory and real is that I got my kids and vowed never to do that to myself again. It was a good thing though I took them, on nothing but a gut feeling, because the medication was giving me the rare side effects of induced psychotic episodes that I will never remember what I actually said or did. Apparently, I started really nasty blog wars on my space. I would read them and delete them scared I didn't remember writing them. It did perm damage to my nervous system and I will have slight tremors for the rest of my life. On top of already being vulnerable because of my husband leaving and was a target for some immature Army drama; I was pretty much on a verge of completely snapping.

Now I think I did snap and for five years don't understand why I would file for divorce on my best friend and the only man in my adult life who I loved more then my own life. I was with someone one else who treated me badly and I was trying to get out of that relationship only to get on my feet and jumped into another marriage a few months later. I hit rock bottom. I think if I had known a bit more I would have been more involved and less worn out. I didn't know they weren't doing what they were supposed to.

My husband knew something was wrong and he was calling my psychiatrist begging him to believe him that the way I was acting wasn't his wife. No one listened. In fact that vulnerability was used to a person's advantage to pick apart my reputation and to blame me for things I didn't do. Truthfully I don't know why I cared what any of them thought as I never have been that passive before. I figured out years later that I fell apart day one when Jay left; I blamed him for abandoning me and for letting someone hurt me that way. I yelled at him four years later and said he never loved me if he hadn't been able to see I was sick and needed help; that I had a form of brain damage from medication. That I should have been forced to get help but no one would care enough to do that ever. I got myself help recently when I had no choice because my memory came fully back. No one even believed me that its what happened and I no longer care. I just remember that if I hadn't fell apart then my kids would have their family.

I had really been on the verge of giving up and I know that was partly why I agreed to leave Andrew behind with his brother when John and I remarried and got orders to Germany. I didn't know as of now how Killeen school district was failing my son and that East Ward Elementary was getting ready to make him ineligible for services.

I didn't know he hadn't progressed at a good rate or that he was not being serviced to the extent Autism needs to be. I let them spend the next school year with their father. I had almost gotten fired from my jobs because of picking up Andrew all the time when his behavior was out of control . I don't know why I didn't try to get him more help; think part of it was I had tried so and never got anywhere. He was just like that with no better and getting more difficult to keep in a bear hug.

He started running off too. In two years he was on a preK level still and barely making Kindergarten level. He didn't get out of diapers until almost six years old. I don't think he had slept through the night one time and he was still a mac and cheese and McDonald's kid. Now I had to wrestle him into bathtubs; I had to chase down streets and sign behavior notes everyday. I finally started refusing to pick him up. By the end of his two years at East Ward he had dislocated his teacher's jaw, run around the school naked, bit metal chair legs etc. No closer to getting him into any interventions he could have used big time just the past two years.

We got our diagnosis. Finally got a diagnosis from a smart individual who had to give my kids developmental and academic intelligence like assessments on our screening for overseas duty station and he failed miserably. And to the day I die I will believe that was a good thing. He has Infantile Autism and Sensory Integration with no meds and good prognosis.

I didn't know how happy I would be to get out of Texas until I saw that my son was doing no better and now living far away from me. He stopped calling me mommy and he was under this false impression I never wanted him; a stepmother implanted belief...I fought custody from overseas with a deployed spouse and a baby that didn't have a passport. We spent six grand that year trying to get him to us for good. He is with us and came in June of 2008. His father remarried for about a year and half. So when everyone starts at around three years old we started at seven years old....go figure....


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Abby MalchowRourk


Giorgio Tremante on February 18, 2011:

Giorgio and Alberto Tremante

Via Danilo Preto 8

37133 Verona

LETTER TO JOHN PAUL II (after your departure)

We have known personally the now away in May 1980 during a public hearing in St. Peter's Square, when your physical was in the splendor of its form. Took place on chairs arranged in rows on the square. I wanted to arm Alberto, my wife Andrea Franca, our precious twins hit, it was said then, from a mysterious illness. At that time we have serious entrusted entirely to You, You represented for us the hope of our faith in God the Father. You have our consulate penis, you've kissed one by one and you've blessed, long pause and listen to our sad story promising the interest of the Holy See to find a way that allows us to save the lives of our creatures. I still live in the mind the memory of that encounter, your majestic and royal figure who bends to embrace us poor creatures, your sweet that you laid eyes on our two children intent to play around with the holy cross that I hung from the neck . Alberto, holding on my knees, suddenly had an impulse to be close by your mighty arm, and I curb their thinking that his naive and genuine Warmth You could perhaps create disorder, when I never slowed his instinctive gesture, a way Its addressed to the great "grandfather"! In the late summer of that year, the health of my small twins were somewhat worsened until, on September 22, Andrea was admitted to hospital emergency until 10 pm and 5 am died. The last day of November, including his sister Alberto had to be hospitalized for the same problem, but instead of leaving it in the department of paediatrics, as was the case with Andrea who had died, we decided to do so into the resuscitation, to be attached to a respirator automatic him overcome that moment of sudden enpass had respiratory failure, the same was also tracheostomized. His hospitalization lasted six months, during which they were executed immunostimulant therapies, such as the interferon, then still in experimental stage. See beloved John Paul II, the roads that we have come to save the lives of Alberto and Andrea, at a certain moment you have with your cross, when, after the attack that you had to suffer in Piazza San Pietro, hit by a "Cytomegalovirus", in that circumstance Alberto could be of help. Divine providence had meant that the drug interferon, experimented on Alberto, was then charged by the same scientist who had provided him with Alberto, even to you. Perhaps for this event you have not heard, but things went their way, you finally I can remember. After the death of Andrea, was the second son who saw me take away from sickle black, my heart was shocked, I felt shot down, over, the forces were coming to me to miss. We then wrote a letter, which still keep, where you express my killing, despite all wondering once again your help to save the life of Albert. For the umpteenth time, nobody gave me the desired response. Someone, above, still can not define well who had been urged me to react, I had the vision of a dazzling light and heard a voice that said quote these words: "Shake the earth from dirty feet and continue to fight" . This was the spring that led me still continue my fight for the life of my son. Months after months Alberto had to remain hospitalized in the halls of resuscitation of several Italian hospitals and foreign, until, after many abuses and humiliations, I decided, with incalculable difficulties, to bring it back home. I had to arrange with all equipment to be able to manage at home, especially suited to solve its problems of respiratory failure. That was the first of May 1984. I'm not to tell the many vicissitudes that we had to live for and save his life to prove a truth and unwanted advance assiduously denied. The so-called science officer, had already ruled that it would not be able to survive. My mood was exacerbated by the continued prevarication suffered on several occasions, and had also suffered against the Catholic community for the behavior absolutely indifferent if not totally passive that he had always maintained in our drama. In 2001 I managed to publish a book in which tell our dramatic story. So I decided to put his picture on the cover of that we ave with you in order to prove to myself justification for make pace official with the whole of the Catholic Church. I knew then that the Bishop of my town, was given a copy of my book, so I thought to write two lines also ask for a meeting, which unfortunately I had not ever. In this letter makes it clear that the significance especially for me had the word "Father", love without limits that the same name was supposed to mean, I also permitted to ask at the same time, the ability to make his confirmation from you, Holy Father, my son who at that time had 25 years. The reason for that, in my opinion, was to justify my seemingly absurd claim was that of a rapprochement with Christian Community, after that long period of absolute indifference that the Community had maintained against our tragedy. Unfortunately, this time received no reply. In October 2002, after a long illness, I had to suffer the loss of my wife Franca, being so alone to handle the serious situation of my son Albert. It was the drop that made the vase overflow. My faith was now light, was entirely waning, my desperation convinced me that my life was to be an interminable hell without any hope. Only a few months ago, exactly on December 15 last year after 24 years since the first meeting with you in St. Peter's Square, without Andrew and my wife Franca, returned to meet in Room Nervi. Alberto accompany on his chair with wheels that held up the book of our history for do you gift, when I approached you noticed it on your face the signs of suffering, your gaze was no longer sweet and serene, your physical showed debilitated The obvious signs of the disease. Alberto delivered, in the hands of a prelate who stood beside you, the book and I just had time to remember that boy who was seated in a wheelchair, with all its obvious signs of his disability, seemed to me that your eyes had outlined a veil of sadness, your head is bent more on the one hand, as if, even for Te had suddenly reopened that book the now distant past, as if the image of my family all you had returned to mind, perhaps you've reviewed with tears in his eyes when, before the then Your royal figure, you have to beg you to help save the lives of our twins. Today a distance of more than two years after the departure of my wife Franca and with the recent events of your death are here to beg on their knees again, no longer as "Pope", though powerful on this earth, but as "Saint" that see the sky and listen to all the supplications of those who like me believed and still believe that beyond all these human miseries there is still a divine justice. This time I am firmly convinced that I fulfill in order to improve the health of Alberto, you absolutely need to intercede for him, you have to make that miracle that so many years in my heart I'm calling to see it flourish. I am sure that now you will not be subject to earthly guidance of the protocols that you might as well have tied the hands even the will, so remember that at the time you contract a debt against Alberto, he was the guinea pig on which tested the drug is also useful for you, so I remain firmly convinced that from thee, from above, the debt will certainly honored.

Giorgio Tremante father Alberto, (Marco, Andrea and husband of Franca that are where you're You)

Abby MalchowRourk (author) from Ripon, Wisconsin on February 05, 2011:

I appreciate your comment izetti and I want to say not one family has it the same but if more people like you would read things that don't affect them as of now; more of these families wouldn't feel so alone as I have had to feel.

I was you izetti, I was the college student and my major was psychology. I took the Human and Child development class that I was bored in and it meantioned Autism in as much as you just posted. That was still stating 1 in 10000 diagnosed that there is a life time affliction good luck and see you later. In 2000; only two years before he was born. No one wants to know the diagnosis but its a place that gets you started to feel like you have a control over a life you never really have control the child does. I have two now on spectrum and almost thought it was three. God Bless you for reading this and I pray that all you have to do is reach out and do what you did. Its a well worth it journey but you have to make choices you won't think youd have to; divorce a husband if your child was autistic and didn't believe it was a true problem? Would you leave an infant in a foreign country with a father deployed and with people you don't really know to fly to the states where last time you went they hid him and violently attacked you? What would any of us do? Would anyone seriously believe you have had to give up your entire reason for who you were cause I did.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on January 19, 2011:

I know this is tough. I don't have personal experience with it, but I was in a Psychology class that taught about it and a man in there shared his experiences with his son having it. At times, and I only have one kid, but I could go nuts. Having a diagnosis is truly a triumph, but I know yours was a long journey.

Related Articles