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 diagnosed with Autism at the age of four after much help from his pediatrician, the First Steps Program through the state of Kentucky and Children’s Hospital. The process of diagnosis is not easy. It is not quick and it can be very frustrating. However, because of our pediatrician’s awareness, Drew was able to get the early intervention that can be so critical in an autistic child’s development. It has taken us time to adapt to Drew’s diagnosis and to cope everyday with the idiosyncrasies that come with having an autistic child. No one prepares to be the parents of an autistic child. You learn to adapt. There are many challenges to that adaptation.
Drew has made remarkable progress in the years since his diagnosis. Where he once could barely speak, he now plays video games with his friends and is a chatter box. It had been a challenge to get him to eat even the simplest foods. Now he can scarf a pizza with the best of them. Simple things for most of us like bathing, putting on clothes, and even going to the bathroom, he now does by himself. He still has his share of issues such as loud unexpected noises, fear of being out of his routine and his fear of thinking he let us down. But he had come so far in these areas as well. He is going to school and is in the sixth grade now. He loves the school bus and most importantly, he has made many friends. They have accepted Drew with open arms. Simply put, he is a happy child.
Drew was diagnosed as mild/moderate on the autism spectrum. There are many issues to deal with when you are on the spectrum and they last a lifetime. However, we were blessed to have the help of doctors, teachers, friends, and family. They have all been incredibly supportive and we would not be where we are today with Drew without their help. There are many families who do not have that support system. They may struggle with children who can be violent, who may wander or run away. They never receive the smiles, hugs and kisses we do. They never hear the child say to them, “I love you.” Even though we deal with autism on a daily basis with Drew, we are fortunate 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