Tom Brooks was born in 1986, which in terms of scientific knowledge about autism was a mixed blessing. The Oscar-winning movie Rain Man came out in 1988, making many people far more aware about autism. And it certainly wasn’t back in the 1950s when doctors thought that too-cold “refrigerator” moms caused autism in their children through a lack of expressed love.
But it certainly was light-years behind where we are now.
Many doctors had never worked with a patient with autism before. Others had misguided ideas about how to treat it. The internet was barely a twinkle, meaning parents and caregivers could not easily get information.
But Tom’s parents did they very best they could.
He was lucky to grow up with a warm, supportive family and friend network. He went to school with an aide by his side and, with some special tutor sessions, was able to keep up with his class and graduate with all his friends. His mother did contemplate having him move into a more specialized school for high school, but Tom was against that. He’d built relationships with his friend group. He didn’t want to leave them behind. He was sure he could make it through the coursework, and he did.
Tom brings attention to details which could help other parents. He found the fire alarms at school to be extremely stressful, but eventually learned coping techniques. He discusses his challenges and learning experiences while dating.
Tom’s now in his thirties. He’s a full-fledged adult. He lives in his family’s three-apartment home on the third floor, paying rent to his landlords – his parents. He holds down a job. He has a great network of friends. He’s now published four books and is planning on speaking sessions.
It’s powerful to hear from Tom, in his own words, what it is like growing up and living on the autistic spectrum. The more stories we can share and read, the more we can help the community understand what it is like to be on the spectrum.
Also be sure to read the interview with Tom Brooks –