Welcome to the Drew’s Puzzle Piece website. It is our hope that through this website and baseball tournament, we can raise awareness of this fast growing epidemic, which now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. As our son, Drew, is getting older; our concerns for him take a different direction. With that new focus in mind, we have decided that the proceeds of the tournament will benefit the Ken Anderson Alliance. The focus of KAA is a vitally important one – building living facilities for the immensely under-served community of Greater Cincinnati adults living with autism and developmental disorders. We would like to thank all of the volunteers and sponsors who have helped us make all of this possible. It is truly overwhelming how many people have reached out to us in this cause that is obviously very close to our heart. Your kindness and generosity are appreciated more than you can ever know.
Lastly, let us say that while our fundraising may be in our son, Drew’s name, we do this to raise awareness for all of those parents who never get to hug their children, never get a smile, never receive eye contact, never get a kiss and most especially, never hear “I love you mommy and daddy.” While we never have a day where autism doesn’t rear its ugly head, we do receive all of those things from Drew and we consider ourselves so fortunate and blessed for that.
Andrew Joseph Michels was born June 1, 2006. Like all parents, we were overjoyed at his arrival. He was a happy and healthy little boy. He was always laughing and smiling and appeared to be growing normally. When we took Drew to the pediatrician for his 1 year checkup, he was not yet walking or talking. At a follow up visit 3 months later, the doctor was not happy with his progress since he was not hitting his milestones. He recommended that Drew go into the First Steps Program through the State of Kentucky, which helps children with varying developmental delays up to age 3. We are forever grateful for the doctor’s recommendation because this early intervention was critical for Drew. Throughout Drew’s therapy in First Steps and in the subsequent year, we had seen the signs of autism, but deep down we didn’t really want to believe it. He would line up his toys and other objects in a row. He would, and still does, frequently flap his hands. He would bang his head on the slats of his crib. He did not have age appropriate verbal skills and showed little interest in being with children his own age. After he was discharged from First Steps at age 3, we knew something still wasn’t right and we were referred to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Department of Developmental Pediatrics for evaluation. This process was a very lengthy and frustrating one, but in 2010 we ultimately received the diagnosis that we knew was coming – Autism Spectrum Disorder. We were told that Drew is mild to moderate on the spectrum. In many ways, he is very high functioning. He is verbal and can communicate pretty well with others. However, he struggles greatly with sensory issues, socializing and changes to his routine.
It has taken us some time to adapt to Drew’s diagnosis, and as difficult as it can be sometimes, we realize how lucky we are. Many parents of children with autism struggle with violent behaviors and children who wander or run away. Many never get a smile, hugs, kisses or hear their children say, “I love you.” Even though we never have a day where autism doesn’t rear its ugly head, we know how fortunate we are to have none of those concerns. It is for that reason we created Drew’s Puzzle Piece to raise awareness and to help others who are dealing with autism.
Thank you for taking the time to read Drew’s Story.
John and Emily Michels