Snow Fun

On September 2, 2009, 10:43 am

This is a video story of our hero Gabe whose Mom Julie  refused to permit his autism to prevent her from teaching him to snowboard. These videos were filmed at Wintergreen Resort, Virginia.

To learn about Gabe's and Julie's disturbing journey read the following.

An Autism One Member’s Story. The Tragedy of Incorrect Diagnosis.

We now know that early diagnosis and intervention of an autistic child can result in significant improvement and even cure. Unfortunately, this fact is not widely disseminated by the standard news media. The result in many cases is a history of wrong assessments followed by poor advice resulting in a tragic existence for both the child and the parents. Here is the chronology of Julie (now an Autism One team member) and her son Gabe. We've gleaned and edited this from several interviews with this amazing Mom. We are publishing it in the hope that everyone who reads this will forward it to parents of babies, to newly-weds, to expectant parents and to anyone else you can think of. Let’s do everything we can to keep this from happening to others.

From Julie

Gabe is my first and only child. Being age 19 when he was born (and relatively naïve regarding the “ways of life”) I was ill prepared for the road ahead. Unlike many cases of autism that do not show symptoms until the age range 1-2 years, Gabe had problems immediately. Less than a week after he was born he was readmitted to the hospital due to not eating. As time progressed there were many symptoms telling me that much was wrong.  For instance, during the first two years of his life he didn't want to be held and almost never cried. He had asthma, was frequently sick, and came down with pneumonia several times. He stopped talking around 18-20 months (that didn't last). Continual assurances from his doctors that he was fine left me in a quandary. On one hand, who was I to question the assessment of doctors? But on the other hand, my observations hardly fell in the “normal” categories.

By age 3, it was obvious that something was seriously wrong. He could talk but could not, for instance, tell me his clothes bothered him. Instead he would fall to the ground hitting himself. He had little interest in making friends. He had a compulsion to line up his toys and if they did not standup he would have a total meltdown. Reaching my wits end, I began seeking medical help beyond his local doctors but encountered policies that did not permit aid until he reached age 5. I commonly heard the remark "He's a kid, he’ll be okay".

One of Gabe’s traits is that he functions well one-on-one with adults so visits with therapists were to no avail as he rarely showed much in the way of symptoms during the visits. I phoned many children's hospitals across the country seeking advice on where I might take him for consultation. I quickly learned that seeking such advice over the telephone was an exercise in futility.

By the time he reached age 5 his enrollment at two separate daycares had been terminated because they were unable to handle him. He was unable to relate to peers, showed no emotions, had no pride in things well done, was completely oblivious to his impact on others, and had no concept of cause and effect relationships. He smiled very little. Support from doctors fell in the category of "he'll out grow it" to "it's the parenting". All this time it was apparent that he was very bright. It made no sense to me. At this point I felt that I had lost all parenting ability as nothing I could do seemed to work.

The next four years were shear terror. The diagnosis of one mental health pediatrician was ADHD & Depression. Another identified the problem as simply an anger issue. Medication helped some but never solved his problems. It finally reached the point where his behavior was such that I could not keep him safe, His environment appeared to be fully based on his perception not necessarily our reality.

By his ninth birthday public schooling had become a significant problem. There were periods of complete lack of control during which he would attempt to hurt staff, himself and security personnel. The psychiatric “experts” diagnosed adjustment disorder with mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood, ODD, ADHD, Mood disorder NOS/Bipolar Disorder NOS. The homebound school proved no better. All this time he was in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals and taking a variety of drugs.

On December 6, 2008 I received an autism diagnosis from one of our hospital medical centers. Unfortunately, this was judged an “invalid assessment” and was completely ignored by other facilities.

The saga continued. In one emergency room visit we were faced with suicidal intent, self harming, homicidal threats and running away. Security officers needed to restrain him. I was told they would sedate him if it made things easier for me. No hospital would take him. Note that he was hospitalized in four different mental-health facilities in the latter half of 2008. By this time I had lost my insurance coverage and on my way to depleting savings (most hospitals stays run about $1,000 a day). He was hospitalized for over 50 days in 2008. On January 13 of this year he was transferred from the Commonwealth Center for Children to a residential treatment center which accepts "at-risk" children who no longer covered by health insurance. He was there for seven months This proved to be a blessing as their programs were a great help with improving his social skills and his behavior. Diagnosis: Mood disorder, NOS, Adjustment Disorder w/mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, ADHD, ODD

Finally on July 22 of this year The Kluge Children's Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia filed an official autism assessment diagnosis: Autism, ADHD and ODD. It pains me to think of the years of agony Gabe experienced because of failures of our medical establishments. Since the assessment I have read much about autism and how to work with my loving autistic son. I have slowly weaned him off prescribed medications and am carefully controlling his diet. We have a late start but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I am unable to express how happy I am to be part of Autism One where I have found hope and support. I love one of the Autism One mottos: Our children get better.”It is my prayer that my experience creates awareness in mothers everywhere and prevents anyone from repeating my experience.

Finally, I must express special thanks to many who provided support with no knowledge other than that I had a serious problem with my son. Everyone at the Wintergreen Resort, VA (where I teach snowboarding) was wonderful. Not only did they provide emotional support but they helped raise money for my unbelievable hospital bills.


Your rating: None Average: 5 (9 votes)


That looks like so much fun, Gabe could you teach me???
Awesome Video


I really want to recognize everyone at AutismOne for getting this story out. All too often, as parents, we forget we are not alone. Unfortunately everything is at a cost: financialy, physically, and emotionally. Support form friend and family is often hard, they want to help but do not understand. AutismOne is a great group of people that have been in, know someone, or just found out they will be in my shoes. Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs you can ever have. For those with a child who has Autism, this challenge is far more difficult. We are often exhausted and wonder how on earth we made though the day to wake-up and do it again the next. There will no award or trophy if you survive this. You just have to let the hope you have for tomorrow, get you though today.

Real world, bring the connection closer

Gabe, Julie, WIll and friends thank you for putting this together. I had been lucky enough to recently meet Julie (on the phone) and she is now working with AutismOne as a Team member to help us with improving the web site and bringing everyone useful, interesting and entertaining information for all parents that are walking the path to recovery with their own families.

I am a huge fan of videos as it helps not only put a face with a name but also a personality with a name.

Julie I can really see and feel the love and commitment between you and Gabe, its great to see how far he has come with your help. I am sure many parents marvel at what the early snowboarding days must have been like.

For anyone who sees this video, think about sending in your own experiences with family or friends with on the Autism Spectrum, it give so much hope to us all!

P.S. Great pond skimming :)

Awesome for sure! I look

Awesome for sure! I look forward to seeing more!

High five Gabe,


Gabe, thank you for sharing your snowboarding skills. You are the one and only Gabe. Your mom must be very proud of you.

Keep making videos and keep us up to date on your achievements.