Ninth grader Brandon Bickle is the kid everyone likes; he’s funny, nice, and sweet. He’s also a student who has been diagnosed with autism.
How does Brandon maintain such a positive attitude?
“I’m positive because it makes other people happy and that makes me happy too,” Brandon said.
Everyone faces challenges in their life but for people who have autism there are more challenges.
“My grades are the most challenging. I keep up with them pretty good though,” Brandon said when asked what challenges he faces.
Brandon joined his family at a very young age.
“We were blessed with Brandon when he was 10 weeks old. He crawled at 6 months and walked at 11 months. He hit every typical mile stone, except he didn’t babble or talk. He was a very content baby. Brandon never spoke a word until he was 3 yrs., 8 months old,” Brandon’s mom, Tobie, said.
Tobie and her husband Keith are definitely Brandon’s biggest fans.
“Proud does not begin to describe our feelings about Brandon. Everyone’s life is a little bit brighter by having Brandon in it. He may not be the best conversationalist, but he is compassionate, generous, dedicated, enthusiastic, courageous, and the most loving human being we know!” Brandon’s mom told BluePrint.
Brandon was diagnosed with autism early in his life; and he had a lot of help from the Easter Seals throughout his childhood.
“Brandon was officially diagnosed by a psychologist in 2003; however we had early intervention start with him at the age of 2 because he wasn’t talking,” Tobie said. “We took him to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to an audiologist to test his hearing as well. Brandon went to Easter Seals form 4yrs old until he was 11. He had occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy, aquatic therapy and sensory integration.”
Many changes occurred in Brandon’s life after he was diagnosed, and Brandon’s family learned as much from him as he did from them.
“Life changed for all of us…some subtle changes and some drastic changes. He had a lot of phobias in his younger years, which created some challenges. However, Brandon taught us patience. He taught us how to look at life through his eyes. We learned how to be resourceful, how to educate ourselves with a fantastic support group which includes our extended family,” said Tobie.
Brandon’s mom said the emphasis with her family is on Brandon as wonderful person first, and a person living with autism second.
“His autism does not define him, just as cancer or diabetes doesn’t define someone else,” Tobie said. “I can’t imagine our life any other way. We only know how to parent Brandon. Brandon takes everything LITERALLY… it’s difficult for him to read any kind of sarcasm, which makes him very vulnerable at times. He is continuously challenged with sensory issues. He has super acute hearing. He amazes me at how he has taught himself to desensitize himself from so many things that make him uncomfortable. Most people would be shocked to know how many things actually ‘feel’ differently to him in comparison to others.
“He is the light of our lives! People tell us that Brandon is so lucky to have Keith and I as his parents and I always correct hem by saying ‘we are the lucky ones!!’ We have difficult days and we have typical struggles just like other families. Every year Brandon faces more challenges as he transitions through the years.”