Local Parent Speaks Out About Autism Awareness

OAK HILL, W.Va. (WOAY) – In honor of World Autism Awareness Day and National Autism Awareness month, a local parents spoke out about his two children with autism on Tuesday.

“Two of my three sons are on the spectrum,” said Charles Schmuck. “The oldest is 20, so when he was diagnosed it was actually called Asperger’s at the time and they’ve since changed it to ASD, which is autism spectrum disorder. My youngest, who is 11, has it as well.”

Schmuck described both sons has high-functioning.

“There’s lots of different levels on the spectrum and as you go down the list, the symptoms or the issues that the children deal with become more varied and more extreme,” said Schmuck. “With the high-functioning, they have some social issues and they do have some sensory [issues.]”

Despite struggling in situations that may cause sensory overload, Schmuck’s sons have excelled in life. His 11-year-old took higher level classes throughout elementary school and his oldest graduated high school with honors.

“They’re still able to function in society. There’s just little things things here and there that they struggle with.”

When doctors diagnosed his first son, Schmuck said he had to readjust himself. 

“I was afraid I did something wrong. As I did research and talked to the doctors about everything, [I found] it is what it is. I just had a come to terms with the fact that I had to be more patient and I had to be a better parent.”

When it comes to how others interact with his kids and others like them, he has one piece of advice.

“Every child is different and their struggles are going to be different. There [are] so many varied symptoms and so many varied indicators of autism that one child will have and another child won’t. You can’t treat all children with autism the same. You have to treat them like individuals, just like any other child.”

In 2018, the CDC determined that 1 in 59 kids is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed than girls.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.