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Zachary's Story: From Tantrums to a Touchdown

The following is a blog post submitted by Tonya Whited Moyer, mother of a son on the spectrum.

My son Zachary was born one month early, on January 24, 2000 after a very hard pregnancy. From the start he was a very fussy baby, I spent hours walking, rocking and driving with him to soothe him. He battled Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at 2 months, asthma on a daily basis, and chicken pox at 4 months and shingles (amazingly) at 8 months--the youngest case his doctor had ever seen.

I noticed he didn't coo and goo as most babies, he would busy himself in his Johnny Jump Up constantly jumping and rocking. When we tried to play with him he would not respond to us with a smile or head turn or anything for that matter. He seemed to be in his own little world and didn't want to be bothered. I was concerned needless to say.

Autism Diagnosis

At age 6 he was diagnosed with autism. Hearing them tell me all the things my son wouldn't be able to do broke my heart. I remember the ride home that day, I cried all the way home, my hopes of ever having a "normal” child were gone.

Zachary started speech, occupational and physical therapy soon after. The years to follow were some of the hardest of our lives, his meltdowns were off the wall. We tried medicine, behavior therapy and counseling calming techniques and brushing. We finally found that laying a blanket over his head would block out enough of the stimuli to calm him.

He was in the fourth grade when he showed an interest in football and with the encouragement of his physical therapist we decided to put him on a team if possible. Lots of phone calls later, my son was on the Ramblers little league local group. He loved it! He loved going to practice and seeing his coach and "friends" on his team. He wasn't that good but made up for it with his enthusiasm. For years we watched him fall over at the start of the play and "faking” being pushed over to avoid contact with the opposing side. He stayed on with the Ramblers until he was 12. We said goodbye to them and at this point I was worrying over the impending Jr. High switch Zach would soon make. My worst fear was that he would be thrown to the wolves, ridiculed and teased as we all know how mean kids can be.

To my amazement, Jr. High has been the best thing to happen Zach in a few years. His teacher, along with the team of therapists for speech and occupational therapy, made my son blossom. He can now do laundry, and clean his room as well as help cook at mealtimes. Within the last year Zach has finally been able to actually hold a conversation, something I had long awaited. Just to hear how his day went, to me, was better than winning a Nobel Prize!

Zachary's Touchdown

Lately his favorite thing to talk about is the recent touchdown he made at a game on Oct.17 in what was the last game of the season. The coach along with teammates and the cooperation of the opposing team arranged for Zach to run the ball and score that touchdown. As if that wasn't enough to make his day he was awarded with the game ball from his favorite coach as his teammates surrounded him in a huddle. I sat in the stands, watching in awe and amazement as I saw the huge smile on my son's face. He sleeps with that football and carries it with him most of the time.

By sharing my son’s trials and struggle I am hoping to reach someone who may be struggling with a newly-diagnosed son, daughter, grandson, niece, nephew, etc. Autism is a struggle. It’s frustrating and sometimes we as parents or caregivers may think we are never going to get through. I have been there; I have struggled, screamed and cried right along with my son. But as I have watched him turn into the most amazing young man, I know there is hope. He constantly amazes me and surprises us with what he can do and he makes me proud, every day.