Our Son, Kenny

Growing up with autism in a conflicting world.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world shrouded by vocal inability? Imagine your only communication is through guttural sounds. Imagine fear and frustration surging through your body when you feel pain or need something. And because you can’t express your needs to those around you, you instinctively take out your frustrations the only way you know how— on the people who love you most.

That describes the reality many children and adults like Kenny Coppo face daily. Kenny is an autistic 29-year-old boy in a man’s body. He was once a healthy toddler who was curious and content. However, after receiving his DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) immunization at 19 months old, Kenny turned into a distant and unmanageable child who I, his mother, could no longer control. Similar to most parents, I had simply followed the doctor’s orders and governmental guidelines, thinking I was protecting my baby from diseases with his immunizations.

As Kenny’s behavior became increasingly bizarre and he experienced devastating seizures, I turned to professionals for help. Such professionals encouraged institutionalization, saying Kenny’s autism would worsen with time. They warned that nonverbal autistic individuals sparingly improved socially, or any other way.

Although the behavioral professionals were right in many ways, I refused to believe Kenny was as “retarded” as I was constantly told. I searched endlessly for therapies and programs to better Kenny’s predicament. However, in spite of a major communication breakthrough at the age of 17— when Kenny’s thoughts exploded like the magic of Houdini and the innocence and honesty of the boy trapped inside— his intense compulsions became more difficult to contend with as Kenny grew older.

Related challenges continue to affect our family every day. Yet, our love for Kenny remains unconditional and constant. He regularly surprises us with his uncanny abilities, several of which stand out in my mind.

To put it mildly, Kenny is very routine. In fact, he is obsessed that things happen at a specific time. It has been this way since the DPT immunization. Each evening, when my husband Ken— Kenny’s Dad— took Kenny for a 6pm drive, they had to take the same route, in the same direction. Then, one evening when his father was about to enter the freeway where he always does, Kenny grabbed the steering wheel, pulling at my husband’s arm. Kenny made it clear— without being able to speak— that he did not want to take the familiar ramp. Utterly surprised, my husband had just enough time to turn onto another street. When they returned home, my husband put the news on TV, as he always did. A special report came on about a terrible accident involving multiple cars. The crash occurred at the same time and location where Ken and Kenny were about to enter the freeway. To this day, my husband feels our son Kenny saved them from possible disaster.

Sometimes during the night, Kenny leaps out of bed, cries and strips off his clothes— and we can’t get him back in bed. We have documented that, at the same time this happens, someone Kenny knows is having unusual problems.

And at times, when his Dad showers Kenny, he suddenly tries to push open the shower door. It’s as if Kenny wants to jump out because he knows he is missing a neighbor pull up the driveway or a child walk by the house. There is no way Kenny can see or hear such occurrences. Sure enough, however, when I look out the front window, I see exactly what Kenny knows is taking place.

In relation, a favorite aide who did a lot of work with Kenny was upset about a boyfriend from her past who had called her. She was thinking about him and asked Kenny if he knew what she was thinking. He spelled out “Will,” which is the name of the former boyfriend. She had never mentioned the name to Kenny.

Kenny’s mind is tragically funny, innocent and amazing. He can read minds. He can look at an incredibly hard math problem and point to the correct answer in seconds. But, if our house was burning down, Kenny wouldn’t have the sense to escape the flames. Rather, he would fight our help, tooth and nail.

While I cry over my worries for Kenny, he makes our entire family laugh with his silly antics. And no one ever forgets Kenny after meeting him. Kenny has taught me to realize what is precious in life.

A medical doctor once said I would eventually grow to resent my son. The truth is, I love Kenny more each day.

Words of Caution on Vaccines

For parents feeling skeptical about their child’s routine vaccinations, here are some precautionary measures to follow based on data from the National Vaccine Information Center. Although there were no predetermining factors in Kenny’s history, this list may help prevent a negative outcome for your child. Vaccine damage can result from bad batches and unhealthy mercury levels. Also, babies whose blood brain barriers are not mature enough to deal with the toxins in the shots may become victims of vaccines. Discuss all of these items with your child’s doctor.

  1. Make sure your baby has not been sick with numerous colds or ear infections in the months prior to receiving vaccinations.
  2. Don’t vaccinate if there is a history of seizures on either side of the family.
  3. Wait until your baby is old enough to receive vaccines, and give him small dosages.
  4. Don’t agree to extra combinations of vaccines to save time and money.
  5. Ask for the Japanese version of pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine.
  6. Wait until premature babies have caught up with their weight and health.
  7. Confirm there is no mercury in vaccines.
  8. Don’t approve routine shots just because doctors say they are required. Ask questions.
  9. Don’t vaccinate if there are extreme milk allergies in the family.
  10. Ask for the lot number of the vaccine in case a problem occurs.