While author Sabrina Jeffries researches locales and information for her romance novels, her thoughts are never far from home and her family. Her son, Nick, now 25, born in New Orleans, was diagnosed as developmentally delayed at age 2½ and with autism at 4. Jeffries and her husband began the road that all parents of children with special needs travel, looking for the right avenues to traverse to help their child.
Nick entered the public school system in New Orleans. An avid researcher for her writing, Jeffries also searched for programs and services for autistic children and adults. It was through this avenue that the couple chose to move to Cary, North Carolina, and enroll Nick, then 9, in a self-contained class for children with autism in a public school there.
“His class in the New Orleans school was good, and the autism society chapter was wonderful, but there were so many more services available for children and adults in this area,” Jeffries explained.
Nick’s road has been bumpy, but through trial and error, strides have been made. Once, when he transitioned from elementary to middle school, he began acting out by hitting his teacher.
“It seems that in middle school, the teachers felt that there should be no time-out between tasks (as there had been in elementary school). His middle school teacher called the elementary teacher, and the three of us figured out that Nick was smart enough to realize that the only way he could still get his ‘time outs’ was to be punished with one,” Jeffries continued, “so he was allowed a time out between tasks for a while, then eventually transitioned to not needing one.”
Problem solved through teamwork.
Although considered low-functioning, nonverbal and cue-dependent, Nick has worked in various jobs with the assistance of job coaches. He is in a day program, where he volunteers in the community and paints and creates pottery.
It is a trait of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders that they are more comfortable within themselves that interacting with others, especially in a larger setting.
Nick enjoys swimming, walking and other physical activities and attends social functions occasionally.
Nick travels frequently with his parents. He has toured the Smithsonian museums, enjoyed rides at Disney World and Universal Studios, vacationed in the mountains of Asheville and Boone, North Carolina, and visited New York; Los Angeles; Richmond, Virginia; Dallas; and New Orleans.
Sabrina Jeffries was born in New Orleans and grew up in rural areas of Thailand, where her parents were Baptist missionaries. Having a sparse vocabulary of Thai language limited access to playing with other children besides her siblings. She became a voracious reader, growing up with the classics and the romance of Jane Austen novels. She returned to New Orleans and Tulane University to earn a master’s and a doctorate in English literature.
Jeffries began writing novels of Regency romantic fiction in 1991. She is participating in the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention this week and will sign her latest book and meet fans from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at the RT Giant Bookfair at the New Orleans Marriott, 555 Canal St.
On her website, www.sabrinajeffries.com, Jeffries has a section called “Nick’s Story.” In this piece she discusses the raising of an autistic child with honesty, candor and humor.
Jane Pic Adams writes about issues of interest to individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.