Raising Awareness to Help Others
The Ashland Beacon
Autism, or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated one in every thirty-six children in the United States alone. Signs of autism typically appear by age two or three, while some associated developmental delays can appear as early as 18 months of age. While the range of symptoms can vary, the most common symptoms of autism include difficulty communicating with others, becoming overwhelmed/stressed when out in social situations, and developing obsessive interest and repetitive behaviors.
One young mother has made it her mission to help raise awareness about autism and set the record straight on how people view those with autism. Paula Profit, an Ashland resident, knows more about autism than most. Her son Aiden was diagnosed at a very young age when she noticed that something just wasn’t right with her beautiful baby boy. “Around 18 months, I noticed something just wasn’t right. Toys with lights, sounds and motion never kept his attention. He lacked the imaginative play others his age displayed. He was always fussy and never content. Going places was almost impossible. A simple trip to the grocery store turned into a disaster where I would have to leave a full buggy of groceries behind. Everywhere we went was a struggle,” shared Profit.
As time went on, Profit noticed other signs that something just wasn’t right with her son. “He was delayed in almost all of his milestones, severely hyperactive, impulsive, and developed major sleep issues before the age of three,” noted Profit. It was at the age of three that things began to accelerate, and Aiden’s list of issues continued to grow. “He had his first seizure at the age of three which eventually led to the diagnosis of epilepsy,” Profit shared.
By the age of five, Aiden had developed severe anxiety which led to many gastrointestinal issues. “His anxiety would change from minute to minute. One minute he would go from being in an extreme state of fear and anxiety, and the next he was fine.” Profit went on to add, “By the time Aiden had started school, his teachers and I began to notice that he had daily behavioral issues, and it was clear there was something more than just severe ADHD and ODD.”
Profit wasted no time trying to get help for her son. At the age of five, Aiden was officially diagnosed with autism at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where they later linked his epilepsy to him having autism. Of course, this is news that no parent would ever want to hear about their child, but Profit finally had answers. “At first, I felt like his life was over. The hopes and dreams I had for my child had vanished. I remember asking God “Why my son? Why us? Did I do something wrong during my pregnancy? Is it my fault? I didn’t know the first thing about autism. I had the misconception others have. “He doesn’t look autistic”. I went through the normal phases parents go through--grief, denial, anger, depression, worry, defeat.” shared Profit. After the diagnosis set in, I dove headfirst into educating myself on how I could better help my son,” shared Profit.
With her son’s diagnosis, Profit made the difficult decision to give up her career and become a stay-at-home mom so that she would be able to care for Aiden’s every need. “Aiden was placed on the Michele P. Waiver program, which is a home and community-based waiver program thru Kentucky Medicaid. The program is designed to provide an alternative to institutional care, where individuals with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities can live at home with supportive services. With as many appointments as he had weekly, there was just no way I could work and give him the care that he needed,” declared Profit.
Because Profit’s dedication and determination to her son and his well-being were unwavering, young Aiden has flourished over the years. Aiden… now 15 years old, is currently a freshman at Paul G. Blazer High School. His mother shared that Aiden enjoys playing video games, supporting the Tomcats, and playing baseball in the Challenger League. Aiden shared with us that his favorite thing about high school is lunch and gym class. Unlike most teens his age, Aiden doesn’t look forward to summer breaks. “Our days are very structured and routine. Summers are a tough transitional period for him; he would much rather be in school with a consistent routine than be out for the summer,” noted Profit.
However, this summer is the summer that both Aiden and his mother have looked forward to since early 2020. Over the summer, Aiden will finally get to meet and receive his long-awaited service dog. This process has been three years in the making. In 2020, the family’s beloved pets of 15 years succumbed to old age and naturally, the family took it very hard. It was after the loss of their beloved fur babies that Profit decided to look into getting her son a professionally trained service dog. Profit had previously done some research on it a few years prior but ended up leaving the thought on the back burner. Profit stated, “Aiden’s service dog will be able to go everywhere he goes including school. Everywhere we go poses challenges. Our lives will drastically change when he gets his service dog. We haven’t been to church since 2019 due to Aiden’s anxiety and behavioral struggles. This is something we both have a yearning for. Having a beloved companion by his side will help bridge the gap in social settings. Instead of being viewed as the kid with “problems,” he will be seen as the amazing individual he is with a furry best friend by his side helping him navigate thru life.”
The average wait time to obtain a service dog from a reputable training facility is between two to five years. In order to obtain one, the family must go through an extensive fundraising period as well as many classes. “Aiden is eagerly awaiting to receive his match letter on June 21. That is when we find out his dog’s name, gender, and breed.” shared Profit. Once matched, Profit and her son must travel to Xenia, Ohio where Aiden will meet his service dog for the first time, and the three of them will take part in an extensive nine-day training course.
To help offset the cost of travel expenses, food, and lodging while in Xenia, Ohio, Profit has begun a t-shirt fundraiser that she has lovingly named “Paws for Cause.” The cost of each t-shirt is $18, with $5 from every shirt sale going to the family. If you would like to purchase a shirt, you can do so by contacting Trophy House at 606.324.2661 or visiting them in store at 2007 Central Avenue. With every shirt purchased, you are not only helping this family, but you are helping to spread awareness about this all too often misunderstood disorder.
While there is currently no cure for autism, and it is not something that one can just outgrow… Aiden is living proof that with proper support and understanding, you can live a perfectly normal life. Profit had one final thought to share, “I’ve always been an open book when it comes to our autism journey. My hope is that by sharing so much about our journey that I am able to help others who may be following along in our footsteps. Autism has no cure and looks different for everyone. There is no face of autism. When someone says he doesn’t look autistic, I often wonder what they see as the face of autism.”