Interview – Judi Whary talks about son Michael, who made autism awareness video that went viral.

Boy ScoutGrafton, Ohio – Last moth we covered the story about the intelligent and energetic 16-year-old, Michael Whary, who created a 13 minute autism awareness video for his Eagle Scout Project. Michael has autism. You can read our report; Boy scout with autism makes autism awareness video here.  here.

To date the YouTube video has had 24,695 views.

Below is Michael’s video, which we think is pretty amazing.

We got in touch with Michael and his mother Judi, to learn more about Michael and how the viral reaction to his video has impacted upon their lives. Below is our interview with Judi.

Can you tell me a little about the early years with Michael and when he was diagnosed? Did you know or have a feeling that Michael was on the autism spectrum?

Michael was diagnosed at two and a half years old. At that time, there was just not as much information available about autism. He taught himself the ABCs with the stencil in an hour and a half when he was 18 months old. He had the proper amount of words for his age. We had for him the “Your Baby Can Read” videos which were great at teaching language. What only I could see, was that each word was spoken with the same tone and same inflections, every time he used that word. We had his hearing checked because we thought he could be deaf. Being a first time parent, everything I was describing to other parents, they would just tell me that every kid does that, but it was never the same as what I could describe. For example, Michael was a very early reader. Other kids read early, but my kid read the phone book and knew the numbers and addresses of everyone in it at 3 years of age. Michael would often line his toys or his father’s shoes in a straight line. Then, he would run next to the line looking out the corner of his eyes. We finally called the doctor and expressed our concerns.
2014, 2-22 contestMichael seems to be a very social and likable young man. This comes across so easily on screen. Did Michael struggle during his younger years? What support did he receive? What support did you receive as a family?

Where we live it is illegal not to educate your child so legally the schools in our district were our main option with his education. We are very fortunate to have a good and understanding school district that are true advocates of education. He was issued an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Michael received speech therapy and occupational therapy through Midview Local School District. We gave him private speech therapy and music therapy too. It was not covered by our insurance and the burden of payment fell to us. Michael has known of his Autism since third grade. He has been involved with all the decision making on therapy, treatment and medication. This helps him feel in control of his own life.

I think it was in third grade when he was finally able to tell me what he “did that day”. I remember him not saying it, but singing it and ‘backwards’ starting with what he just did and working up to the morning activities. I was smiling from ear to ear with excitement. Sometimes I think “We are the only parents who love it when our children talk back to us!”

My husband and I own our own business and don’t work regular hours. Keeping a regular schedule would have been impossible with our careers, so we taught to Michael that change was the regular schedule and it worked. My husband and I are very outgoing. Michael is very outgoing as well. Michael loves acting and being in front of people, even though many of his actions are quite parallel instead of interactive, we always reinforced that he was a part of the group, giving him confidence. This all helped a lot with his communication difficulties.