Their older son, Saket, 17, is a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. Himal, 15, who will attend Briar Woods High School in the fall, was diagnosed with profound autism when he was 2.
As Himal’s parents came to terms with his diagnosis, they worried about his future.
Josette Zahinda says that a brochure saved her life.
The Ashburn resident said her doctor had noticed, over the course of several visits, that she didn’t look well. The physician suspected Zahinda was a victim of domestic violence and, when she wasn’t looking, slipped a brochure into her purse. She found it later, at home.
Drew Gutenson loves to talk about his collection of prescription eyeglasses and his fondness for playgrounds — slides, swings, trampolines and zip lines.
Gutenson, who describes himself as a high-functioning adult with autism, knows that some skills are particularly challenging for him, such as sensing when people don’t want to talk to him. He also understands that his fondness for playgrounds can be a source of concern for those who don’t know him.
“I have a beard,” he said. “If they see an older adult with a beard on a playground, most people think it’s not good at all.”
It’s called going over the cliff. When students with autism leave the public school system — and the network of support and therapy it provides — they often graduate to the couch. They struggle to find meaningful employment and to live independently, even though the majority have average to above-average intelligence.