My daughter has autism. Months after her diagnosis, we learned my husband does, too.

My husband, CJ, and I celebrated 10 years of being together. We actually have three anniversaries, but this is the one I regard to be the most important because it marks the date that life as I knew it would be tipped upside down.

My husband is the most incredible father who is ever-present for his tribe of girls. He has this cheeky grin and a great sense of humor, and he makes me laugh a lot. He’s so bright. He teaches me lots of things.

He also is fantastic at pulling me up when I’ve taken something too far, and he’ll often be the first person to roll his eyes and sigh with a comment like, “Why must you always insist on learning things the hard way?” (Because that’s me, baby, a bull in your china shop).


My husband is a 33-year-old male. He also has autism.

We were together seven years before we realized he has autism. It wasn’t until after my eldest daughter was diagnosed that  it occurred to us that CJ has autism, too.

I knew my eldest daughter wasn’t “neurotypical” from about age four in kindergarten.

Back then I didn’t drive, so we walked everywhere. If I walked a different route to kindergarten, she would fall apart. If I didn’t give warning when I planned to change her usual breakfast food, she would not handle it. She never liked to be touched by other kids in kindergarten. She didn’t cope well with singing songs. She would cry and cover her ears when someone sang “Happy Birthday” louder than a hushed tone. She didn’t give good eye contact. She didn’t cope with meeting new people very well. She was rigid in her routine, and there were plenty of routines.

I mentioned these quirks of hers to my husband. He dismissed them as “normal.” He said he didn’t see the issue.

That's because it was his normal, too.

Image via iStock.

He saw no issue with the way she behaved because he could see why. He could understand her triggers because they triggered him, too. And he had many of the exact same struggles when he was young that she was experiencing now. But no one made any connection.

After another very tough year, I decided enough was enough. I needed help. My daughter was melting down at the beach. Her screaming would go on for hours and hours. I’d tried everything, and nothing was working.

She was assessed. She was diagnosed with autism. It took a pediatrician an hour to make crystal clear a bunch of ongoing issues we’d been experiencing as a family for almost two years. I felt relief and like I finally had a sense of direction. When I told my husband, he was in shock and disbelief.

Ever heard the phrase “can’t see the forest for the trees”? It means sometimes the most obvious answers are directly in front of you, but you just can’t see then because you’re not paying proper attention.

A few evenings after she was diagnosed, my husband and I sat down on the couch together and went through her diagnostic criteria.

And it was there that we discovered so many of her quirks were the same as his.

We had been together for seven years by that point. Seven years of being in love, parenting together, and living together. We’d only ever had three nights away from each other. Then all the pieces began to fall into place. The reasons behind his social overload and only ever wanting to go out one weekend day now both made sense, along with his exhaustion from talking to people. We could even see it in the specific way he liked to organize the pantry. (Hey, who was I to interrupt such beautiful methodology?) We chuckled over just how many things we had automatically adapted to without even noticing.

A few months later my husband went and had formal assessments done. He received his official diagnosis at age 30.

He greeted it with grief, but also relief.

Which brings me to…

When I said yes to marrying my husband, I said yes to him along with his quirks (which back then I had no idea were due to autism). I loved him for the way he saw the world and how he worked within it. I loved him for the way he can fix anything that is broken, the way he seamlessly adapts to different social situations, and his impeccable attention to detail. I love him for the way he can problem-solve. I love him for the way he’s a straight shooter and doesn’t suffer fools. I love his dry sense of humor.

Looking at the big picture, I guess you could say the things I love about my husband the most are probably his most “autistic” traits.

Fancy that!

Autism didn’t change my husband. He’s never not had autism, and it’s what makes him who he is. But maybe his earlier formative years would have been a lot less stressful and hard for him had his autism been recognized. He could have gained the appropriate support and learned strategies at a young age rather than having to cleverly wing it for over 25 years.

There’s a lot more knowledge about autism now, definitely more than there was when my husband was a child. I guess that’s why we are both passionate about early diagnosis and intervention. Because when you love someone, you love them fully and wholly and you want to support them to be the best they can be, whoever that is. And you realize labels don’t define or limit a person’s abilities — but they can offer great insight into the individual’s personality and enable them to be supported to reach their full potential.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less