Three kids that never take a break, it’s a fairly normal picture of a Kansas family. Until you look a little closer.
“I consider Autism a way of life,” Michelle Valentine said. Michelle and Adam Valentine’s twin sons, Dakotah and Tyler, have a severe form of Autism. At almost nine-years-old, they’re still potty training and can barely speak. When they do speak it’s often in their own code. Once, Michelle couldn’t understand why her son kept saying, ‘One, two, three.’
“We stopped at a stop light and he unbuckled himself from his car seat, flung himself in the front seat, cranked up the volume and goes, ‘One, two, three.’ And so, turn up the volume is ‘one, two, three.’”
It’s fairly calm at home. There the Valentines can control things. In public, it takes very little to overstimulate Dakotah and Tyler.
“They’ll cover their ears, they start stimming, they start yelling and humming to themselves,” Michelle Valentine said. That’s when the looks begin.
“They were just looked at like, ’Oh my God! These kids are so awful.
They have such behavior problems. Those parents are awful parents.’”
The Valentines learned to deal with it. Until one day Michelle had enough. "And he was pushing at me and kind of doing this,” she demonstrates, waving an arm in front of her face, “you know, at my face.” She added, “The next thing I know the store manager’s there because customers had complained about my child and myself.” She finished, “It was very degrading.”
Valentine got so tired of people staring at her when she was in public with her children and they started to act out, that her sister bought her business cards that explained what was going on.
“I can’t sit and explain to everybody I come across why my children act the way they are,” Valentine said.
She also made a video, explaining Autism, its symptoms and behaviors, and posted it on YouTube. She did it for her children.
“I don’t want them to be looked at like freaks.”