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« Q&A: Maxine Share, a proud mother of a son with Asperger's | Main | Is there an autism epidemic? »


Loving a kid like Jaden

Conservative MP Mike Lake and his wife Debi first noticed something was amiss with their son, Jaden, when he was 1-and-a-half years old.

He didn’t speak and he was preoccupied with organizing his toys. Lake will never forget the time Jaden, then a toddler, was handed all the letters in the alphabet and he organized them starting with the letter “Z” and he worked backwards to the letter “A.”

 The Lakes felt Jaden was autistic.

When the diagnosis came, it “wasn’t a big shocker,” Lake recalls. The family was lucky enough to squeeze Jaden into a provincially government funded program that gave him 36 hours a week of one-on-one treatment.

Now Jaden is 17 and he attends high school with a full-time aid.

“But he is like a 3 or 4 year old inside a teenager's body,” says Lake (Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont.)

Lake seemed ambivalent to the creation of a national strategy to combat autism. He is looking forward to a stronger definition of autism that is due to come out next year with the release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders. A better definition will lead to more kids getting treatment, he feels.

Jaden still doesn’t speak but he does communitcate through sounds.

Lake has made it his mission to introduce Jaden to the lawmakers inside Parliament and expose them to what autism is all about.

He often brings his son to his office at the House of Commons and he has given many, passionate speeches on the need to better take care of autistic children. Just last September, Lake spoke to a special World Focus on Autism special gathering in New York City. The even was organized by spouses of United Nations diplomats. (http://www.mikelake.ca/news.aspx?pID=1587)

Lake knows it is unrealistic to expect that one day his son will be able to live on his own.

“But we don’t discount he may have reachable progress,” he says, adding Jaden loves to cook, follow recipes and make chocolate-chip cookies.

“We aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves. We tend to take it day by day,” he says.

Lake is not surprised the autism rates are 1 in 88 and that for boys it is 1 in 54.

“But it is still a mystery. Still. We have a lot to learn,” says Lake.

His son sometimes suffers from anxieties in the evening.

“Sometimes, I lay in bed with him at night and I look in his eyes. We communicate without speaking.”

Before Jaden, the thought of having a child with special needs terrified Lake.

“Now, I can’t imagine loving a kid more than Jaden. I didn’t expect this. I love what he is able to achieve. It is just – different.”

-- Tanya Talaga





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The Autism Project

  • Welcome to the Toronto Star's autism blog, a daily amalgam of breaking news stories, features, trends and ideas flowing from our Autism Project. The blog is written by Star reporters: Kate Allen, Andrea Gordon, Laurie Monsebraaten, Kris Rushowy, Leslie Scrivener, and Tanya Talaga.

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